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Women's football continues its admirable progress throughout Europe – reflected in particular in the ever-growing quality of the UEFA women's competitions from a technical, tactical and organisational point of view. The importance placed by UEFA on the development of the women's game is emphasised in a new publication which gives a full picture of the European women's competitions.
UEFA Women's Competitions, to be published annually, includes a wealth of facts and figures, and its interviews present key women's football figures, as well as highlighting the challenges that women players face. The publication comes as women's football is enjoying a memorable year, with an excellent UEFA Women's EURO 2013 behind us, and interest in the UEFA Women's Champions League at booming levels.
"For the national teams, (…) this year will be remembered for a UEFA Women's EURO that was remarkable from every point of view," says UEFA President Michel Platini in his message in the publication. "Full stadiums, record TV audiences and magnificent football will have finally managed to convince the last remaining sceptics that women's football is currently enjoying unprecedented growth – growth that fully justifies the expansion of the next final tournament in 2017 from 12 to 16 teams.
"This spectacular development in women's football has only been possible thanks to UEFA's member associations, which have realised the need to implement women's football development programmes. Their efforts are making all the difference. Where once there were only a handful of women's clubs, there are now thousands, with millions of women in Europe eager to get involved in the game, as players, coaches, volunteers and fans."
I would also like to applaud the efforts of the UEFA Women's Football Committee, especially those of its chairwoman, Karen Espelund, who is also the voice of women's football on our Executive Committee."
Women's Competitions includes a comprehensive history of UEFA women's football. It describes the upwards steps that have been undertaken over the past three decades – from the first conference in 1980, to the first UEFA competition for national women's teams played between 1982 and 1984, then the inaugural European championship in 1991, the first women's club competition in 2001/02, and beyond. A timeline stretches from 1972, and the first women's international recognised by world body FIFA, between France and the Netherlands, to 2017, when the UEFA European Women's Championships will involve 16 teams.
The development of young women players has gone hand in hand with the growth of women's football, and the publication examines the progress of UEFA's two competitions for youngsters – the European women's Under-17 and Under-19 championships. Switzerland's most capped women's player, Martina Moser, looks back at her own days playing youth internationals and how this level of the game has developed since then. Wales senior captain Jessica Fishlock is now enjoying success in the United States, and she recalls her first steps at international level.
The UEFA Women's Champions League continues to make giant strides – just over 50,000 spectators watched the 2012 final in Munich. German international Martina Müller helped mastermind VfL Wolfsburg's success in this season's final in London, and she looks back over her eight seasons with the German outfit. Steffi Jones, UEFA women's football ambassador, Faye White, 2013 UEFA Women's Champions League final ambassador, and Mia Hamm, former world-record international goalscorer, look at the impact of the competition amid women's football's overall evolution.
With 166 caps and 68 goals for Sweden, Victoria Sandell Svensson excelled as a player before her retirement in 2009. She talks about the demands involved in helping to organise this summer's UEFA Women's EURO 2013 in her home country. Stars of women's EURO past and present talk about their early days, their experiences in youth tournaments and how the competition has developed over the years. Two national associations – Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Malta – are highlighted as examples of excellence in the development of women's football.
Finally, with more and more girls encouraged to play football, and having dreams to aspire to, the football family can permit itself a glow of pride at the unstinting work being undertaken from the grassroots level upwards. "The UEFA message must ring out loud and clear across Europe," says this fascinating new publication. "It is a call to girls and women to love football and to get involved at their nearest school, club or national football association. Football is for the enjoyment of everyone; we want to see more women taking advantage of the new opportunities we have worked so hard to deliver."
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