First inspiring moments at FFAV
In Europe, in particular in Switzerland, which is the context that we know the most, despite important improvements in the recent years, football remains a male connoted sport. Even if there are projects aiming at increasing participation in girls’ football, the percentage of male players is much higher. We indeed observe that women’s teams in clubs remain a minority and the media coverage is limited. In the school context for example, almost only boys are playing during school-breaks. If a girl wants to join in, she has to be really good and to prove it regularly.
So, when Tinh explained us that FFAV strictly requires a 50% of girls’ participation in clubs, we wondered whether this was feasible and how this could be realised.
We were told that it was very challenging at the beginning, as work had to be done to change mentalities. Indeed, from a conservative Vietnamese point of view, football was considered as a boys’ sport. Girls were supposed to focus on other activities, such as singing or dancing. One additional challenge, that hit us because it is very specific to the cultural context in our opinion, is that in Vietnam not getting tanned is valued, which could make parents not to want their daughters to play under the sun. We could realise this cultural difference also throughout our personal experience during our trip around South-East Asia. People were trying to compliment us about our white skin, while we were hoping that our tan would be noticed. Indeed, in Europe, people often try to get tanned as much as possible, given that it is considered pretty and it might show you were on holiday on a paradisiac island. Here, we heard it is quite the opposite: white skin usually represents richness, as it means that you don’t have to work outside.
So, in this situation, where there is even one additional challenge, what made it possible to work so efficiently on increasing girls’ participation?
(It is now normal to find boys and girls play football together )
The FFAV team went into the schools and told the boys that each of them who wanted to play in a club had to be accompanied by a girl. As the boys really wanted to play, they were keen on contributing to change the perception of girls’ football and encouraged their involvement. That gave the girls the opportunity to try football. If they liked it, they could keep playing. Furthermore, the families could witness the positive impacts of this activity on education and health issues, which was an important step. Of course, all this process took a certain time but with tiredless efforts, FFAV together with its partners have gained success in changing people’s attitude on girls playing football.
According to us, this is a great example on how, if you set a constructive and objective target, you can be creative and find efficient ways to tackle obstacles in order to reach it. Currently, each club supported by FFAV fulfils the criteria of 50 % girls’ participation. This is definitely an inspiration for countries in Europe that sometimes face similar challenges.
(Cyndie and Matthieu – FFAV’s new volunteers)
Cyndie and Matthieu-------