HELPING THE `BEAUTIFUL GAME’ BECOME MORE ATTRACTIVE FOR WOMEN
OFC Technical Director Jim Selby is buoyed by the growing number of former internationals giving back to the sport.
Eleven former internationals were involved with either their national teams or OFC’s technical study group at the 2006 OFC U-20 Championships recently held in Samoa.
Vanuatu had the highest representation with current senior internationals Mordy Tarimiala (trainer), Lauinih Tagh (gear steward), Josina Maleb (Women’s Officer) and Lathelma Kalpukai (trainer) making a valuable contribution at the FIFA U-20 World Cup qualifiers.
Former internationals Ali Grant (assistant coach) and Julie Hogg (manager) and current New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon (goalkeeping coach) were members of the Kiwi delegation while Emily Young and Diana Justice were the assistant coaches of Samoa and the Solomon Islands respectively.
Decorated former Australian captain Connie Selby served on OFC’s first technical study group while ex-New Zealand international Michele Cox and was a key-note speaker at a FIFA Women’s Football Seminar held in conjunction with the tournament. OFC were also honoured to have former Swiss international Tatjana Haenni, FIFA’s Head of Women’s Football, and Urs Zanitti, FIFA’S Head of Development Programmes and Services, in Apia for a four-day seminar.
Jim Selby believes the presence of so many former internationals bodes well for the future of women’s football in FIFA’s youngest confederation.
“I think there’s a two fold thing here and one is that the former or current national players have a built in passion for women’s football and a genuine one,” Selby said.
“Males tend to come in, stay for a while and then move on and I’ve been one &091;of them&093; because I was in charge of the &091;Australian&093; women’s national team in the early years. I’m not saying they don’t add value during that time but women tend to have a genuine passion for the game and helping other girls and women within the game.
“I think it’s really important we have role models that have been there and done that who can be mentors for the young ones coming up, share their experiences to get other women to where they’ve been.”
Selby is particularly keen to accelerate the number of women coaching at the highest level.
“I think it’s important that we acknowledge that there are smart women who could be good coaches or who are good coaches if they were given the opportunity…part of OFC’s responsibility is going to be to foster and help people achieve the goals they want to achieve, especially within this group,” he said.
“What we have found in the past is that women have been accepted as referees at the highest level, administrators and in sport science at the highest level but for some reason you can’t be the head coach at the highest level.”
Selby acknowledges OFC have work to do with infrastructure within the islands to help women graduate from the pitch to the dugout.
“Each time I speak to federations or governing bodies it’s ‘oh yeah, were developing the girls and that’ but from Connie’s day and Michele’s day, women have been around playing for 30 years now and there still four years away from developing something.
“It always seems to be the same excuse…part of OFC’s job is going to be if they want to become experienced, competent coaches they get the chance to do that and for us to make if more difficult for people not to accept them in those sort of roles.
“We can’t keep in saying it’ll be two years or three years before they’re ready because we said that 20 years ago. Only Europe and I guess FIFA have taken those positive steps to make that sort of thing happen.”
Selby is pleased with the progress being made to foster women’s football with OFC but concedes more work needs to be done, particularly in the islands.
“I think the meaning is for some good things to happen but the reality is that it’s &091;still&093; to happen,” he said.
“There’s been some positive moves where people have shown some interest and are able to instigate the programmes at an elementary level if you like. But they still need some assistance from us &091;OFC&093; and others to take that to the next step.”
Selby admits change will take time.
“The short process has often been, especially in men’s football, to bring someone in from outside the country, do a quick-fix job and that get a result for us. But our point of view now is if we can do a longer internal mentoring programme, it might take longer to achieve but it will have a longer shelf life.
“That’s what we’re trying to do here and I think the member countries have been really positive in looking to take women’s football on board. Just how that needs to happen in a more effective way is the hard point because everyone is time poor, resource poor, people poor and we just keep loading more and more &091;on people&093; without fixing those parts of the game up.”