KEIR RADNEDGE in PARIS: Leaders of women’s football from around have been urged to harness the power of momentum of the #MeToo movement in their work in the game.
Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s first female secretary-general, was delivering the keynote opening address to the wold federation’s Women’s Football Convention at the Paris Expo.
The convention was timed to capitalise on the profile building around the Opening Match in Paris on Friday of the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Samoura told the 600 delegates attending the opening of two-day convention that it was time for women in the game to “roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.”
She said: “Women make up half the world’s population yet our voice is not always heard. Our hard work is often not recognised or acknowledged. In 2017 the world was jolted awake by the #MeToo movement and, as the momentum grew, finally the struggles, problems and battles that women face day-in, day-out began to be understood.”
The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, especially in the workplace, exploded in 2017 after abuse allegations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein.
Samoura said|: “#MeToo has been so important in putting women and our struggles in the global spotlight. I want women’s football, I want the Women’s World Cup, to be a safe space for girls and women where your voice can be heard and you can feel empowered.
“I want to harness the energy of millions of women and girls around the world who will tune in to watch the Women’s World Cup to be inspired. I want them to see 24 nations who will battle out on the pitch for Women’s World Cup glory to see the level of experience of these women and be inspired too.
“I want them to say: ‘#MeToo: I want to be involved in football.’”
The appointment of former United Nations officer Samoura, as a black, Muslim woman, made headlines far beyond football when she was appointed by FIFA president Gianni Infantino in 2016 to head the governing body’s administration.
She has combined that with promoting not only women’s football but the role of women in the game in general. Women could not win the battle alone. They needed the support of men in football to change traditional mindsets.
Samoura said: “I’m not the only determined woman in football. We have millions more.
“This convention takes place six months after the launch of FIFA’s strategy for women’s football about how we can find solutions together and drive positive change through football and lay the groundwork for furthering diversity and equality on and off the pitch.
“It is a crucial stepping stone to promoting the women’s game and make football a sport for everyone and to advocate against gender discrimination.
It is my duty to set the stage for the young women who we must inspire. There is plenty of room at the table.
“The saying goes that a woman’s work is never done – well, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.”
France open the Women’s World Cup against South Korea at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Friday evening at the start of a 24-team tournament at which three-times champions United States start as favourites. The final will be staged in Lyon on July 7.
Group A: France, S Korea, Norway, Nigeria.
Group B: Germany, China, Spain, South Africa.
Group C: Australia, Italy, Brazil, Jamaica.
Group D: England, Scotland, Argentina, Japan.
Group E: Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand, Netherlands.
Group F: United States, Thailand, Chile, Sweden.