“We need to ensure we are reaching out and engaging more women”: CONIFA puts focus on gender equality

Image credit: Khalida Popal

During its 2019 Annual General Meeting in Krakow, CONIFA announced a new gender equality policy, or “Commitment to Gender Equality” as it is officially called.

The policy, which can also be found here, reads:

“As an organisation, CONIFA is committed to the principles of gender equality. As such, CONIFA will adhere to the following principles:

  1. A Women’s World Football Cup is of equal importance to a Men’s World Football Cup. CONIFA thus commits itself to organise Women’s World Football Cups in all uneven years from 2019 onwards, with no exception.
  2. CONIFA will actively promote female representation on its board and will encourage women around the world to apply for posts on the ExCo level.
  3. CONIFA will distribute its resources equally between men’s and women’s football, spending not less than 40% of all development assistance funds on each gender, women and men.
  4. CONIFA commits to make all possible efforts to use male and female referees in all tournaments going forwards.
  5. CONIFA actively supports equal representation of genders on the bench and within Football Association roles and commits to assisting its members in including women in coaching and executive positions.”

CONIFA’s General Secretary Sascha Düerkop had this to say about the policy:

“Everyone at CONIFA is and always was fully convinced that football should be an equal playing field for everyone. Women and men should enjoy the same chances to grow through the beautiful game and should have exactly the same opportunities. Reviewing why women’s football in particular didn’t quite thrive within CONIFA, we could identify the limits in resources and funds: nearly all of our FAs, but also CONIFA itself, suffer from this as the main hindrance to equality.

“Most of our members did start with a men’s team and have much better-developed networks and know-how in men’s football. The limits we all face simply held most of the teams back to develop their women’s football programmes more, although many are doing a lot in that field already. Thus, the demand for women’s football tournaments was always there, but significantly lower than for men’s tournaments. Subsequently, CONIFA decided, year by year, to use the little resources we have to guarantee the continuation of the men’s tournaments instead,” Düerkop explains.

Düerkop and the Executive Committee of CONIFA wanted to do something about the lack of women’s football and he believes it has a huge potential within the organisation.

“After long debates on how we could ensure that our members and CONIFA itself could become a more active organiser in international women’s football, we concluded that we need to take the first step and provide the opportunity to grow to our members. We concluded that prioritising the continuation of men’s football, while sacrificing women’s football events due to the financial limits, was a mistake.

“Thus, we now fully commit to provide a platform for the Women’s World Football Cup as much as we are committed to stage the Men’s World Football Cup. We can’t allow another five years to pass by without providing such a platform. We expect our members to embrace this opportunity and we are fully convinced they will, as the demand is there. We are proud that we could implement such a significant and binding rule without a single objection and cannot wait to see the women’s game thriving within CONIFA.”

He is happy to see the activity already going on in women’s football and commends Sapmi and Northern Cyprus for hosting the first ever CONIFA women’s international match.

“Lastly, we want to emphasise that many of our members have been and still are very active in women’s football – and have regretted the absence of major tournaments. Sapmi and Northern Cyprus showed their ambition by staging a friendly match in Nicosia in 2018 and we cannot thank them enough for showing us what is possible for everyone in CONIFA!”

The gender equality rules and regulations are warmly welcomed by CONIFA’s Director of Women’s Football, Kelly Lindsey.

“CONIFA is special in this way, I felt from our very first conversation that the Executive Committee truly feels that the men’s and women’s departments are autonomous and equally valued,” she says.

“Although other organisations say the right thing, their structure does not promote the values they state. I believe CONIFA is different and I’m excited to work in an organisation that equally funds, values, and promotes the game. In my opinion, CONIFA’s new gender equality policy is true gender equality, and we need to make it happen.

“We need to ensure we are reaching out and engaging more women in the mission. I believe the difference between men and women, when it comes to these roles, is often men seek them out where as women appreciate being asked to join,” she continues.

“Women have a lot on their plates, so to give up more time to pursue another project requires value in the project they are pursuing. I am eager to bring women in who feel valued due to what they bring to the decision-making process. Women who know they have an autonomous voice to take action and execute their ideas.”

CONIFA’s Director of Member Development, Paul Watson, says he sees this as a serious statement from CONIFA:

“I’m really proud of CONIFA’s commitment to gender equality – it’s a statement that we’re serious about giving women’s and men’s football equal respect and attention and we intend to be held to that. “The potential for women’s football to grow in the CONIFA family is enormous and I’m looking forward to seeing what can be achieved.”

Somaliland launch the 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup to the community in style

Author: Olaf Jensen

In 2008, Somaliland’s football had no real organised structure, and Somalilander players had no proper pitches on which to play.

Having coached Somalilander children since the age of 16, Ilyas Mohamed – now Director of the Somaliland FA – saw an opportunity to give something back to Somaliland. So he took the first steps to change the state of football in his home country, to create a football culture, and unite the younger generation around the game.

Together with Guiled Aden (Director of Football Operations), Ilyas began raising awareness, raising money, and organising a league of promising young Somalilander players in the UK. By 2013, British-based Somalilanders were watching their national team take to the field at Barnet FC, and by the time Somaliland competed in the 2016 CONIFA World Football Cup, they were the proud ambassadors of their country.

It is this pride and sense of national unity that drew so many Somalilanders to Haringey Sixth Form College on Friday 1st March for the official community launch of the 2020 CONIFA World Football Cup, which will open next year in the national capital of Somaliland – Hargeisa. It is also reflected in the tournament logo (officially unveiled for the first time), featuring the prehistoric cave paintings of Laas Geel, a unifying icon of Somaliland’s history.

Although there are still some obstacles to overcome, the Somaliland FA is working closely with the government – Ilyas reserved particular praise for the Minister of Sport – and with CONIFA to deliver a successful tournament. It’s a testament to Ilyas and Guiled’s organisation, and the efforts of team manager Omar Abdillahi, that the country is ready to host their first major tournament.

To Ilyas, the tournament is “a chance to do something for [my] country and make a difference in the lives of Somalilanders.” Speaking to the audience, he said “I want you to lead the way.”

Paul Watson, CONIFA’s Director of Member Development, was on hand to explain the role of CONIFA to the audience. He expressed his hope that, in hosting the WFC, Somaliland can “not just host a great tournament, but make a positive impact on people that can continue for generations.”

But the CONIFA World Football Cup’s ethos is perhaps even better summed up by Ilyas’ assertion that he was doing this all “for the love of the game.”

To find out more about the Somaliland fundraising appeal ahead of the CONIFA World Football Cup 2020, please go here. https://www.gofundme.com/

Making connections in Western Sahara

Between 26th February and 28th February 2019, René Jacobi, CONIFA’s Tournament Director, travelled to Algeria to visit camps there housing thousands of Western Sahara refugees. CONIFA members, the Western Sahara FA is looking to improve its set up and ensure those living in refugee camps can play a decent standard of football, something that can be almost impossible due to the lack of basic equipment and even a pitch. Players have to play on sandy, stony ground, often with no lines, nets in the goals, or enough kit to go around.

The Sahrawi refugee camps have been described as ‘one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world’ and result from fighting between the Sahrawi people and Moroccan forces during the Western Saharan War in 1975-1976. Over 40 years on, many of the original refugees still live in a group of camps within the Algerian province of Tindouf.

There are five main camps in the region – Awserd, Smara, Laayoune, Bojador and Dakhla – and René visited two of the camps on his two-day visit. During his time in Smara, René was able to speak to various members of the Western Sahara FA based there and find out more about the kind of issues the FA face. He was also able to understand more about the basic need for coaching and training information, and also see first hand the difficulties young players struggle with.

Despite the issues, the people René met were keen to talk about football and how it can be a lifeline for so many young people in the camps; everyone involved in the Western Sahara FA are determined that football can be something to bring the issues within the camps to wider attention. René also met with members of the camp government and was able to celebrate Republic Day within the camp.

There is no doubt that the people in the Western Saharan camps are determined to bring football to those living in such inhospitable conditions, almost solely reliant on humanitarian aid. Hopefully CONIFA can assist in this, and ensure Western Sahara can compete in future CONIFA tournaments.

CONIFA Statement Regarding Jersey Evening Post Article

The Executive Committee of the Confederation of Independent Football Associations (CONIFA) wishes to clarify several matters reported in an article by the Jersey Evening Post published on 7 March 2019.

A CONIFA spokesperson said:

“The safety of players, staff and spectators is of upmost concern to CONIFA. Two CONIFA Executive Committee members have recently returned from a site visit to the proposed host cities for the 2020 World Football Cup in Somaliland, and spoke very positively of the facilities. During the visit, the CONIFA representatives met with senior officials from Somaliland’s security services, who are in the process of developing a comprehensive security plan for the tournament. The tournament has the full backing of the Somaliland government. While we will continue to monitor developments closely, and always welcome the views of our members, at the present time we have complete confidence in Somaliland successfully hosting the 2020 World Football Cup.

“It is inaccurate to suggest that Somaliland was only awarded the tournament after other expected bids from Tokyo or Seattle did not materialise. The Somaliland bid was objectively strong and satisfied all bidding criteria. Additionally, the CONIFA Executive Committee welcomed the opportunity to hold a tournament outside of Europe for the first time. Given CONIFA’s membership comes from five continents, and we are committed to represent them equally, the Executive Committee felt that Somaliland represented a compelling option.

“We are looking forward to welcoming the participating teams to Somaliland in 2020.”

Darfur United Host U.S.-based Training Camp with an Eye on WFC2020

CONIFA Africa squad aim to strengthen their global squad with their second ever North American training camp

Twenty-one players eager to make Darfur United’s squad came together in Phoenix, Arizona this past week, taking part in a four day training camp and participating in two matches over the weekend.

 

Players’ ages ranged from late teens to mid-thirties and players came from as far away as New York state. The majority of the players currently live in Arizona, which was one of the key reasons for the training camp’s location.

A key goal of the camp was to find talented players located in the U.S. with the aim of combining them with the existing 13-player contingent located in Östersund, Sweden. By adding those two core groups of players together, Darfur United coach Mark Hodson believes they can field a strong team, capable of winning matches at next year’s CONIFA World Football Cup.

This is the second training camp the team has had in the U.S., following last year’s camp in Los Angeles, which is also the home base of humanitarian action group iACT, the organisation that created Darfur United.

“We are hoping to find a core of players that will strengthen the group that we have in Sweden,” says Gabriel Stauring, founder of both iACT and Darfur United. “We will make the team stronger and start winning games and accumulating some points.  All of that on the road to being part of the CONIFA 2020 World Football Cup.”

After spending Thursday and Friday with two training sessions each day under the eye of head coach Hodson and assistant coach Rudy Sanchez, the players – most of whom had never played together before – had their first match on Saturday morning.

The opponents for that match were a group of select college players from throughout the city put together by Phoenix professional team, Phoenix Rising.

Darfur United pressed hard in the first half, controlling the flow of play but were unable to score despite sustained pressure. The Phoenix Rising selects scored on a quick counterattack late in the half and took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

The Darfur squad continued to press in the second half, eventually finding the equalizer when Sirajadine Yahay Abdoulaye snuck past the defense and slotted home past the goalkeeper, 15 minutes from time. Neither team could find a winner last quarter hour and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Coach Mark Hodson was pleased how the team performed: “I thought today’s game was very pleasing.  Lots of positives,” said Hodson. “I think when we have the opportunity to merge the stronger players from this U.S.-based group with the Swedish group we really have a good opportunity to move our team forward.”

Hany Ramadan, who traveled from Maine for the camp and was captain for the first game, echoed his coach’s feelings: “We played together as a team today. We moved the ball the way that coach Mark (Hodson) taught us in practice. We kept the pressure on them.”

The team’s second game provided even greater success for the squad, as they defeated Phoenix R-XI two to nil.  Both goals were scored by 24 year old Khalil Adam, who lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and was attending his first Darfur United training camp.

Stauring notes that there is still much to do after this week’s camp: ““We want to continue holding these training camps in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.  We want to give them the opportunity to participate in this.”

Find out more:

CONIFA History Made with First Ever Match with Kernow FA

NEARLY 200 spectators witnessed a celebration of Cornish sport on the evening of February 25th as the Kernow Football Alliance won their inaugural game against a Foxhole Stars XI, 3-2.

Goals from Harry Clarke, Olly Brokenshire and Liam Eddy put Kernow into a three-goal lead, before strikes from Dan Jennings and Harry Downing brought Foxhole back into the game late on.

The fixture, played at AFC St Austell’s Poltair Park, was Kernow FA’s first since they were officially ratified at CONIFA’s AGM in Warsaw last month.

Their inclusion provides a platform for 11 million Cornish people around the world to be represented on the international football stage.

A strong Kernow team, consisting of players from four South West Peninsula League clubs, were led out onto the field by joint-managers Darren Gilbert and Phil Lafferty to take on a challenging opponent, put together by Foxhole Stars’ Lee Whetter and Shaun German.

Having posed for photographs with the St Piran’s Flag, both teams were quick out of the blocks with possession shared until Kernow nudged themselves in front when Clarke lifted the ball over goalkeeper Anton Lake shortly before the half hour mark – with the large crowd rightly standing to applaud and recognise a moment of Cornish football history.

At the other end, Kernow goalkeeper Jason Chapman had to be on his toes to keep out Jennings and maintain his side’s narrow lead at the break.

With the two teams catching their breath in the changing room, following an all-action first 45 minutes, Kernow FA chairman Jason Heaton and director of football Andrew Bragg took to the pitch to thank benefactor, Jim Rayner.

 

Jim was guest of honour on Monday evening, having embarked on a 500 mile round trip to watch Kernow and humble the Alliance with a donation of £250.

As the football got back underway, it wasn’t long before Kernow doubled their lead, with Brokenshire cooly slotting home from the penalty spot after Eddy was brought down by Lake with 50 on the clock. Just six minutes later it was 3-0, with Eddy finding the net from close range.

Chances were aplenty – with roll on, roll off substitutions used to ensure everyone received playing time – and Foxhole soon got themselves on the board, with Jennings beating Kernow ‘keeper Barrie Wyatt from 12 yards after team-mate Carl Rickard was tripped inside the box on 70 minutes.

The Foxhole team – made up of players from across the South West Peninsula, East Cornwall and Duchy Leagues – pulled another goal back just four minutes later as Downing got his head to the ball following a scramble inside the box.

 

Both teams attempted to carve out further goals but 3-2 is how it remained, with both sets of players cheered off at the end of the 90 minutes, having completed a major step in Kernow’s new journey.

Squads
Kernow FA, managed by Bodmin Town boss Darren Gilbert and Phil Lafferty, formerly of St Austell: Goalkeepers – Jason Chapman (AFC St Austell); Barrie Wyatt (Helston Athletic); Defenders – Tom Chambers, Jason Rogers, Martin Giles (all AFC St Austell); George Tucker, Ed Timmons and Tom Whipp (both Bodmin Town); Midfielders – Olly Brokenshire, Chris Reski, Neil Slateford (all AFC St Austell); Tom Harris, Harry Clarke and Max Gilbert (both Bodmin Town); Strikers – Matt Lloyd, Liam Eddy and Mark Goldsworthy (all AFC St Austell); Dan Pethick (Bodmin Town); James Lorenz (Liskeard Athletic).

Foxhole Stars XI, managed by Lee Whetter and Shaun German: Anton Lake, Kieran Powell and Kyle Friendship (AFC St Austell); Mikey Davies, Lee Rickard, Carl Rickard and Callum Kenny (St Dennis); Dan Jennings, Kieran Rowe and Sam Gerken (Wadebridge Town); Harry Downing (Newquay); Leighton Carhart (Camelford); Lee Reed-Bennett (Foxhole Stars) and Jordi Willmott (Nanpean Rovers).