ZURICH/BAKU: Sepp Blatter has hailed the significance of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup as sending out a message of historic significance to female footballers right across the Islamic world writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The finals began last weekend in Azerbaijan and conclude on October 13. This is the first time that the Azeris have hosted a major sports event linked to the ‘big two’ international federations, FIFA and the International Olympic Committee.

Results at the tournament have been mixed with two 11-0 victories having been recorded, against Gambia and hosts Azerbaijan. However Blatter virtually dismissed these as the price of taking a  sporting and cultural step forward.

Reviewing a remarkable year for the women’s game, after a two-day meeting in Zurich of the FIFA executive committee, Blatter said: “We had 2.2m tickets sold for the Olympic football tournament including more than 600,000 for the women’s tournament – incredible.

“It’s a wonderful year for women’s football. We have also had the Under-20s in Japan with victory for the United States, beating Germany in the final, and I have just come back from the opening of the Under-17s inAzerbaijan where they have made a wonderful Opening Ceremony with Cirque du Soleil and Jennifer Lopez – that’s brand new for us.

‘Great impact’

“But what is more important is that we are playing for the first time a Women’s World Cup, the under-17s, in an Islamic country and this is a historical moment for our game.

“It is also a very positive sign for women’s football in all cultures and I am sure this will have a great impact in this culture all around the world. It shows that everybody can play football and all women around the world can play football.

“I’m not going into the results – where we have seen the gap between the more experienced countries and those who have just started is a great big gap – but it’s the start of international competition.”

= = = =