UEFA has launched a ground-breaking campaign, Together #WePlayStrong, aimed at transforming perceptions of women’s football and encouraging girls to take up the game and help make it the number one sport for women in Europe by 2020.
The Together #WePlayStrong campaign kicked-off with an inspirational film shown before the UEFA Women’s Champions League final in Cardiff between Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain.
UEFA women’s football advisor Nadine Kessler, 2014 FIFA World Player of the Year and UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe said: “Whether you are playing at the UEFA Women’s Euro or in the park with friends, football has the potential to give you so many positive things in life. It teaches you about being part of a team and the need to show respect to both your team-mates and your opponents.
“The Together #WePlayStrong campaign can change perceptions and make it cool for teenage girls to play football,” she added. “If we manage to achieve this, we will be on our way to reaching our goal of making football the number one sport for girls around Europe.”
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin hailed the project and said: “Increasing the participation and the role of women in football has been one of my main objectives, both before and after I became UEFA President,” he said.
“We need to change attitudes about women’s football, and give women of all ages more encouragement and opportunities to play. The women’s game has so much potential, and I believe that the Together #WePlayStrong movement can be a driving force across our 55 national associations to achieve this.”
The campaign also has the backing of the European Commission. Commissioner for Sport Tibor Navracsics said: “Football is so much more than a game. It promotes social inclusion and has the ability to transcend race, religion and gender,” he said.
“UEFA and the European Commission share a number of common objectives and I am delighted that European football’s governing body has embarked on Together #WePlayStrong, which is touching on an area that has been neglected for too long. I hope this will encourage more girls and women to #BeActive!”
Aimed primarily at girls between the ages of 13 and 17, the campaign is founded upon the results of research conducted by the University of Birmingham which investigated the psychological, physical and emotional benefits for girls playing football.
This research showed that playing football can significantly boost confidence, happiness and self-image — helping young girls to make friends and learn vital life skills.
The majority of those who took part in the research felt that being part of a team made them stronger, and they thoroughly enjoyed the experience of playing together. Whatever the outcome of their games, it was the shared experience that they valued, rather than winning.
A crucial aim of the Together #WePlayStrong campaign is to make teenage girls aware that football is also a game for girls, while highlighting the benefits to them of playing the sport, and pointing the way to grassroots opportunities in their area. The campaign is supported by UEFA’s 55 member associations, as well as and a number of celebrity ambassadors from the world of sport, entertainment and music.
The earlier research took into account the impact that football has on self-confidence, self-esteem, well-being, feelings of togetherness, motivation and life skills and compared those results to other popular sports. Data was collected from Denmark, England, Germany, Spain, Poland and Turkey.
As well as analysing existing research literature concerning the links between football and self-confidence, self-esteem, life skills and well-being, the study gathered data on 4,128 girls and young women aged 13 and over.
The research found that:
80% of teenage girls exhibited more confident behaviour thanks to playing with a football team/club vs 74% of those who played other sports;
54% of young footballers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘I am less concerned what others think about me as a result of playing my sport’ compared with 41% of those who played other sports;
58% of the 13–17 year-old female footballers questioned said they had overcome a lack of self-confidence as a result of playing football, compared with 51% of girls who play other sports;
48% said they are less self-conscious as a result of playing football, compared with 40% of those who play other sports;
Kessler added: “This study shows that girls who play football have greater self-confidence than those who don’t play the game. Drawing upon my own experience, I can’t emphasise enough how important this is when you are growing up. I am certain that we can change perceptions and make it cool for teenage girls to play football. If we manage to achieve this, we will be on our way to achieving our goal of making football the number one sport for girls around Europe.”
This summer the UEFA Women’s EURO final tournament in the Netherlands will involve 16 teams for the first time, including Scotland.
You can see the video here https://youtu.be/24oJhv-li54