The Pacific may be the first in the world to see a new day break but in terms of football development it’s not considered one of the leading regions.
However, the Pacific women’s football community were among some of the first in the world to learn about a new FIFA programme set to change the face of women’s football development across the globe.
In addition to providing a platform for a conversation on leadership and motivation, last Friday’s Pasifika Sisters Presents: Sarai Bareman was an opportunity for the FIFA Chief of Women’s Football to spill the beans on the new project to her former colleagues in Oceania.
“In terms of FIFA and the support we can offer I’m excited to tell you guys that we will be launching, in the next few weeks, a new FIFA Women’s Football Development Programme which is something all the 211 FIFA Member Associations will be able to apply for,” Bareman shared.
“It’s a series of programmes that you can apply for in areas like league support, participation for grassroots level, coach mentorship and scholarships for coaches and one the key ones, which I think will be really important for Oceania countries, is women’s football strategy workshop. It’s for those who either don’t have a strategy or want to enhance your strategy, we can come down to you with a framework and really look at how you can put together a clear and concrete plan, linked to resources and structure.
As the former Football Federation Samoa CEO, Bareman has an intimate understanding of the challenges of the developing women’s football in the Pacific but is resolute in stating it requires a collective approach.
“I think what is really important in the Pacific is getting the buy in of the General Secretaries and Presidents as well and including them in that process so that when you do roll out and implement them, you have their support as well.”
What Bareman and the FIFA Women’s Football department have developed is based on research and feedback from Member Associations, which she hopes will meet their needs in a more pro-active manner.
“We’ve been working on it for more than a year now and it’s a culmination of several pilot projects we’ve rolled out and also a lot research to understand the needs of our Member Associations,” Bareman explained.
“Something I saw in the past, especially when I was working in Samoa, is quite often you would get FIFA coming in to offer workshops and support – and it was always good to have that – but in many cases it was coming from a very European perspective.
“It was European instructors with no concept of the Pacific Islands or the countries they were visiting, and often it would be such a waste of resource because it would kind of, fly in one ear and out the other.
“Our approach is really about making things tailor-made for the country or the specific needs of the country, and that’s something that we worked really hard on in Tonga for example with Laite (Tu’ivailala) and her team.
“I want to continue to do that because I’m really passionate that if you don’t make the support tailor-made to that country, it’s not going to have a sustainable impact.”
Currently the majority of funding for FIFA Member Association activities in the Pacific comes via the international governing body and its FIFA Forward programme.
The new women’s football programme will require a separate application process to FIFA Forward.
“It’s a separate menu, you can apply separately and it’s something I hope will really empower those that are in charge of women’s football, especially in the Pacific, to pick programmes which will support them directly without having to worry about funding through FIFA Forward.”
With women’s football often one of the last things considered when a long-term plan is being put together, this is excellent news for women’s football development officers across the region.