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PNG women’s football on the rise

With the aim of attracting more female players to the game, the Papua New Guinea Football Association has extended its Meri Futbol development programme to include two new provinces last weekend.
Meri Futbol is a programme that provides organised competitions for young girls across the country.
With the support of FIFA, the programme has been introduced across eight regions over the past three years.
The latest two additions include Wewak in East Sepik Province and Arawa from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Despite the Wewak Football Association is not a full member of the PNGFA, the region is seen as a hotbed for football talent.
PNGFA General Secretary Dimirit Mileng said Wewak has already produced a number of players who made significant contributions to the game in PNG.
“Wewak was selected for the Meri Futbol programme because of talents that have come from futsal to represent PNG.”
Wewak MP and PNG Justice Department Secretary Dr Lawrence Kalinoe has thanked the PNGFA for giving his province the opportunity to nurture young girls.
Kalinoe said the support given to the Wewak Football Association will ensure the growth of football in East Sepik Province.
“We have three of our girls in the PNG U-20 team.
“However, when we look at the stats most of the players have Sepik blood in them,” Kalinoe said.
The Meri Futbol programme in Arawa was launched by PNGFA operations manager Edris Kumbruwah.
The region, which was the site of a civil from 1988 to1998, is hoping to use football and the Meri Football League as part of the rehabilitation and rebuilding process.
At both provinces FIFA provided the participating schools with football shoes, socks, sheen pads, uniforms and balls that were used at the weekend’s Meri Futbol matches.
FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Local Organising Committee CEO Seamus Marten said the expansion of the Meri Futbol programme is a significant step towards encouraging and inspiring more young girls.
He said the expansion of the programme also signifies the growing momentum for women’s football in PNG.
“It is timely because later this month the U-20 women’s teams from the United States and Japan will be in the country to take on PNG’s U-20 side in a tri-nations series.”
Marten is also confident that hosting the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup will be a catalyst for more women to participate in football.
“It is a tradition for FIFA to leave a legacy after hosting a major event,” he said.
“With the support of FIFA through legacy programs, we believe that we are on the way forward to further develop women’s football in PNG.”

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