Change your perception of female athletes; especially footballers.
That was the strong message Head of Concacaf Women’s Football Karina LeBlanc sent to her Caribbean counterparts yesterday at the first-ever NextPlay event, powered by Concacaf W.
Speaking at the Barbados Football Association’s Wildey Turf where she was surrounded by 200 girls from 11 primary schools across the island, she said this is what needed to be done to push the game forward.
“We’re here to discuss why girls may not be playing, empower them and let them know they can do anything in this world and football can be a tool to do that.”
The former Canadian number one goalie said the Caribbean was a hive of talent where the women were concerned in the sport.
“I think we have some great assets like Jamaica being the first Caribbean team to make the Women’s World Cup. We need to have more good stories to show and we need to start showing parents why there’s power in letting their girls play football,” she said.
And to achieve that, LeBlanc, who is also an ambassador for UNICEF Canada noted Concacaf was willing to embark on the journey.
“To improve, we have to do the baby steps, and that is getting girls to play the sport. Sometimes there are times we can’t field a league because of lack of participation, or girls quit because of a lot of things. Our main aim is to change the perception of the women’s game. I grew up in Dominica and the perception back then wasn’t one of success. Moving to Canada, the perception is that’s your ticket to free education,” she stated.
Additionally, LeBlanc repeated President of Concacaf Victor Montagliani’s position that resources be shared equally in developing both boys and girls football.
“We need to dedicate the same finances to the boys and girls so we can eventually have consistent female leagues in the Caribbean. Right now, there are only leagues in Mexico and the USA. When it comes to the World Cup, we want to have more Caribbean teams. Once the change happens to the perception of women’s football we can get there. There are so many things we can do but first, we’ve got to get them on the field [and] get women into coaching so they see their role in empowering the girls,” she said passionately.
Furthermore, the decorated former professional footballer, who was named as part of FIFA’s 23-strong squad of FIFA Legends ahead of this year’s Women’s World Cup in France said 2020 was the year of Women’s Football in Concacaf.
“That’s building off the fact that the World Champions are in our region. But we can’t just keep on celebrating the best of the best. We have a huge gap and how you fill that gap is through competition; getting them to show up, getting them to play and the Member Associations have to play their part with making women’s football a priority in the grand scheme of things,” she declared while praising Jamaica on their success.