(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek. OFC Women’s Champions League commentators, Elizabeth Osifelo (left) and Lavenia Yalovi (right))
Football commentary has predominantly been the domain of male broadcasters. In recent years however, with the explosion in popularity and growth of women’s football worldwide, that has started to change.
Gender equality in football is a cornerstone of OFC’s strategy to create a more equal Oceania and last year we launched the Gender Equality Playbook, focusing on some key areas; Participation, Coaching, Leadership, Media and Visibility, Sport Policy and Promoting Equality and Preventing Violence.
In a massive year for Women’s Football with the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup being co-hosted by Australia and one of our Confederation Members New Zealand, the inaugural OFC Women’s Champions League is ending in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea this weekend.
Five club teams from the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia have been competing on the field, with two women forming a key part of a three-pronged OFC TV commentary team.
Elizabeth Osifelo hails from the Solomon Islands and Lavenia Yalovi comes from Fiji. Their dulcet tones have been broadcast around the world alongside PNG based commentator Jeremy Mogi.
For Osifelo, who has a background in radio, getting behind the mic to call football matches came naturally. She regularly commentates on men’s football back home and told the PNG Post Courier newspaper she faced barriers initially.
“As a woman, football in the Solomon Islands is a very male dominated sport. So hearing a woman talk about football was a total no-go zone for the listeners, not knowing who the female voice was commentating for football and going out everywhere. really didn’t sit well. I was sworn at, so it wasn’t an easy path,” Osifelo said.
“Also too, our stadium is a bit awkward because you have to climb on the roof and all the men are sitting at the bottom; I’m sitting on top of everyone else. So I am from Malaita Province in the Solomon Islands and that as a woman you are supposed to be at the bottom and that is taboo, and here I am a woman from Malaita climbing on the roof and sitting at the top with men below,” she told the Post Courier.
“It wasn’t an easy journey but I kept doing it a couple of times and then when OFC qualifiers came up in 2018, I was asked to take part in the trial run for the men qualifiers.”
Osifelo has now established herself as an integral part of the OFC commentary team. Yalovi has an extensive background in football having played for Fiji, worked at the Fiji FA, and currently works for OFC in a role with the Social Responsibility team and is based in Fiji.
For Yalovi, with no formal media training, she has relied on her knowledge of the sport and her passion for football. She’s always felt she had a lot of support back in Fiji.
“I believe if I reflect back to Fiji, we have some of the managers, like MyTv, these are male advocates that are always advocating for women in sports, not only that but advocating for the women in mainstream media doing coverage of the game,” Yalovi told the Post Courier.
She is positive about the future for female commentators in the region.
“I am starting to see more women commentating on rugby, netball and football for example but there are still barriers in mainstream media, and I would like to see women get opportunities not only commentating female games but men’s games as well.”