PARIS, June 7, 2019 – The Women’s World Cup, which hosts France kicked off with a 4-0 win over South Korea in Paris, will “change once and for all the way the world looks at women’s football.”
Gianni Infantino, Swiss president of world federation FIFA, issued this rallying call to fans at large when he delivered a keynote address on the second day of a women’s football convention at the Paris Expo.
Infantino repeated many of his comments about the value of women’s football to FIFA Congress on Wednesday. Notably, however, he missed an opportunity to attack the scourge of sexual harassment in the shadows of the women’s football.
As the game has grown in popularity and status around the world so women and girls in countries from Afghanistan to Colombia have protested about threats and harassment from coaches and managers, abusing their administrative power.
Thus it was left to French Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, speaking after Infantino, to tell the convention’s 600 delegates that “there is a culture in football which is not acceptable – homophobic, overly virile – and there is no reason for it.”
Infantino’s address, by contrast, focused on a review of attitudes and progress inward rather than outward.
He said: “As soon as I arrived [at FIFA in 2016] we decided to set up a dedicated women’s football division. There had been no serious action before then. It was a copy/paste of men’s football. We needed to have a proper and own identity for women’s football.
“It’s not easy. Football is a very macho, male-dominated sport especially in some countries. But who says that only men can lead? So one of the first things I did was propose that FIFA Council appoint a woman as secretary-general in Fatma Samoura.
“Discrimination towards women is a topic we need to address. In the management of FIFA we have four women when before it was zero; in the FIFA Council we have six women where before it was one plus two co-opted. In FIFA 43pc of the staff are women. It’s not 50pc. It’s not enough but we are trying. We are making a step.”
FIFA had responded to loud criticism about the chasm between prize money at the men’s and women’s world cup by ramping the sum available from $15m to $50m.
Infantino said: “Is it enough? No but it’s a step. We are investing half a billion US dollars in the next four years in the development of women’s football. This is also making a difference.
“For the first time in our development programme we have earmarked money especially for women’s competitions. If [national associations] organise girls and women’s football you get money. If you don’t, you don’t.”
Infantino promised to revive one of his pet projects, for a women’s world league, “because we need to promote women’s football.”
This promotional potential was a crucial, central role for the Women’s World Cup unrolling across France over the next month.
Infantino concluded: “It’s not just a black and white copy of men’s football it is a true sport played by athletes with technical and physical skills and people will realise that when they tune in to watch the Women’s World Cup in many parts of the world.
“The stadia will be full, there will be a festive atmosphere and what is presented on the pitch is real football. This will change once and for all the way the world is looking at women’s football.”