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The coming of age of women’s football


The coming of age of women’s football

The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup was a turning point in women's football. Dr. Leszek Sibilski explores what made the event so special.

"Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back … play for her." – Mia Hamm

On Sunday morning, 5 July 2015, one of the most beautiful cities in the world prepared to host the final match of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. It is an event that has brought Vancouver, British Columbia one more time to centre stage in the global world of sport.

On that day, a golden haze from wildfires in the Northwest blanketed the Canadian Province of British Columbia and Vancouver. Probably, it was a reminder of the drought-laden US Women's National Team (USWNT) which had not won a World Cup Championship in 16 years. However, during the 90 minutes of play and strong finish that gave them a winning score of 5-2, the USWNT ended that drought within the boundaries of the football pitch, with a record third World Cup triumph. The seven goals scored made it the highest-scoring final in the history of the competition.

The win also drew an enthusiastic response from US President Barack Obama, who tweeted his congratulations to the victors:

FIFA is working very hard to promote the sport among females before the 2019 Women's World Cup in France with its "Live Your Goals" campaign that aims to increase the number of girls and women playing football worldwide. The football governing body has launched the first edition of its Female Leadership Development Programme – an initiative that will provide support to women across the globe who are looking to become future leaders in football.

The programme is part of the commitment to the ten key development principles for women's football and follows on from the inaugural FIFA Women's Football and Leadership Conference held in March 2015. At that event experts from football, business and wider circle of society discussed ways to improve the representation of women in leadership.

Why was this event so special? This final match of the 2015 Women's World Cup has been recognised for its magnificence, fair play, and nail-biting soccer: the best of the beautiful game anyone could wish for. It was also an opportunity to observe where we, as a global society, are on the question of the sport's global development regarding the level playing field and international gender politics. The world was not watching 22 females kicking a ball; instead, the world was watching 22 athletes who wanted to win the match and the trophy of their dreams for their teams and for their countries.

Not for a moment was their effort perceived as being related to gender. The 53,341 spectators were deeply drawn into the match. With the overwhelming number of red-white-and-blue spectators, mostly young girls and their parents, much anticipation and hope rode high on the players' shoulders. Perhaps, intangibly speaking, these athletes pointed out to the world the direction and future development of global football.

Female athletes from all over the world have earned a well-deserved place in global sports through their passion and dedication. The beautiful game might also be a unique avenue for a different and new type of social, if not global, inclusion and equality for sport.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team]


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Leszek Sibilski


Monday, January 25, 2016 - 23:00