As countries around the globe struggle to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s football joins the long list of sports struggling to stay on course amidst the fallout.
FIFA announced several decisions from the Bureau of the FIFA Council overnight, including the decision to cancel the 2020 editions of the two women’s youth tournaments.
New Zealand was scheduled to participate in both events after winning the 2019 OFC U-19 Championship and being nominated for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup after two attempts to play the qualifier were foiled, first by the measles outbreak and then by COVID-19.
Since the previous decision from FIFA earlier this year to reschedule both tournaments to early 2021, the international body has been consulting with all stakeholders – including the host member associations, participating member associations and confederations – to continuously monitor the situation in relation to the pandemic, in particular with regard to any potential impact on the overall welfare and safety of age-group players and participants.
As part of this extensive consultation process and the “health and safety first” approach FIFA has taken, further major concerns in several areas were also raised by stakeholders during this process in relation to the hosting of age-group tournaments scheduled for 2020.
These concerns included, amongst others, challenges around preparation time for age-group teams, and the numerous obstacles to finalising the continental qualification tournaments due to the pandemic.
In light of this, and following further consultation between FIFA and the respective host member associations regarding the 2022 editions of the tournaments, the Bureau of the Council has approved Costa Rica as host of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2022 and India as host of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2022 respectively.
Though not taken lightly, the decision to cancel these two events will no doubt have a flow-on effect on women’s football development with many nations missing out on a crucial opportunity to play international matches. This cycle of players, at U-20 level in particular, will be the young blood at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is when the impact of this decision will become clearer.