Auckland Football Federation Head of Women’s Football Steven Upfold runs the rule over FIFA Live Your Goals Week and looks to the future for the girls and women’s game in the region.
Building off the back of a series of successful FIFA Live Your Goals projects, Upfold explained
“FIFA Live Your Goals is about giving girls and women a chance to play the game, raising the profile and letting people know there’s an opportunity for girls and women to play football, coach football and referee and take part in the game in all the various ways that they can.
“We use it as a means by which to get involved with the schools and try and create a bit of awareness of players outside the current football environment thats there is opportunities to get involved if they enjoy it.
“That’s been the primary driver in previous years under the guise of girls and women’s week with FIFA obviously continuing to support it and now in the change branding under Live Your Goals week thats going to continue into the future,” he told www.aff.org.nz
The uptake by schools was strong across the federation while a club-based festival activity also took place at Bucklands Beach AFC.
“We ran nine schools-based festivals. The reason for that was about trying to open up football as a choice for people who aren’t playing currently.
“In the club space, off the back of one of the schools festivals, we ran a club festival at Bucklands Beach AFC and the feedback from both clubs and schools was excellent,” he said.
Auckland Football Federation’s FIFA Live Your Goals week featured a number of international players, an added value Upfold says is crucial to the impact of the event itself and the legacy it creates.
“We had a number of U-17 and U-20 international players down to help the participants enjoy the experience and that was one of the highlights.
“They loved to see the players getting involved and the children really engaged with the players. They get to chat to them, get to listen to their experiences and get a few things signed. It ties the whole event together nicely when they have a focal point for players who have achieved in the game,” he said.
— Auckland Football (@AuckFootballFed) March 1, 2017
Over and above quantifying the effect FIFA Live Your Goals into pure statistics, Upfold says its vital to recognise and value the emotional impact and community engagement that was hatched as a result of the festivals.
“From my perspective the highlights are seeing players enjoy the game, the smiles on their faces and the opportunity created for players and those who don’t even play sport to get involved.
“We had one example of a girl who said she didn’t like sport but by the end of the festival she had dribbled the ball three or four times with a massive smile on her face and then come the end of it she was talking to the local person about how she could join a club.
“Those kinds of things are the meaning behind the events and makes it worthwhile.
“One of the schools had a special needs unit and to see the smiles on the faces of those players kicking the ball and scoring goals reminds you about what football is all about which is getting people involved and using the game to bring people joy,” he said.
With women’s football growing all the time and opportunities opening up the challenge for Upfold and his remit is to map out an appropriate pathway that trend of increased participation and awareness continues to bloom.
Its no easy task but one he clearly relishes as he outlined the next steps required.
“Now we’ve delivered the FIFA Live Your Goals week we can focus on what the girls and women’s space looks like within Auckland Football Federation.
“I’m new to the role here so the next few months will be continuing to assess how girls and women’s football is delivered with the overall goal of trying to figure out ways we can improve the offer and how we can get and keep more girls and women involved in the game.
“We need to make sure that what we offer is what girls and women want from football to stay involved. That will be the driver over the next few months is to get to schools and club and see how things are done and see how we can add value in whats going on now and in the future.”