Bareman reflects on a COVID-19 world

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 06: Sarai Bareman poses for a portrait ahead of the FIFA Womens Football Convention at the Renaissance Paris La Defense Hotel on June 06, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 06: Sarai Bareman poses for a portrait ahead of the FIFA Womens Football Convention at the Renaissance Paris La Defense Hotel on June 06, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Hannah Peters - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The world has gone crazy with COVID-19 putting a halt to sport across the globe and Cyclone Harold wreaking havoc across the Pacific.

One bright spark during this period has been the Women in Sport Aotearoa, Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa, “Leadership in Lockdown” series.

Obviously at Pasifika Sisters we’re a bit biased, but last week’s webinar with Sarai Bareman was a particular highlight on the agenda.

Appointed Chief Women’s Football Officer at FIFA in late-2016, Bareman has been a key player in the recent growth of the global women’s game. As head of the Women’s Football Division she has overseen the development of a new Women’s Football Strategy which aims to enhance commercial value and build on the foundations of the game, all while leveraging the societal benefits of football.

It’s no mean feat, but it’s something the Kiwi-Samoan has taken in her stride.

“We do have some lofty objectives, we want to get 60 million women and girls playing football by 2026 and that’s something that’s constantly looming over me,” Bareman shared during last week’s webinar.

“But after the Women’s World Cup last year in France we had a massive jump in participation numbers around the world so that’s something that has been really promising for us, and it showed what impact a global competition like that can have on popularising the sport.”

However thoughts of how to capitalise on that success have come to a grinding halt as COVID-19 side-lines football across all over the world.

“Obviously football is very important, but it’s certainly taken a backseat during this moment,” Bareman said.

“To be honest in terms of difficult decisions I actually think the most difficult decisions are ahead of us. A lot of decisions to date have been quite easy to make because the basis has been around protecting everyone’s health and wellbeing.”

Bareman has been able to utilise this period to do some reflection on how a post-pandemic world of football might look like.

“I have a really great team who have been working really hard during this period to work out what the impacts have been and how we can adapt ourselves to ensure the support we give is optimised. There’s definitely opportunities to enhance the programmes we are offering and my main goal is to ensure that money and funding and resources earmarked for women’s football, remains with the women’s game.”

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