With a national league system now thriving, Turkish Football Federation (TFF) initiatives are helping more and more girls enjoy the game.
Launched in July 2008, the TFF's Girls' Football Villages scheme brings together groups of youngsters aged 11-12 for ten days of basic training with national-team coaches. The girls also learning about nutrition and first aid, while lessons in chess and even drama help foster a fun environment.
Promising players are encouraged to join local clubs or – if there are none – TFF education centres, with 12 members of the WU15 team that Turkey took to the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore discovered at Football Villages.
Last year, the TFF introduced the Football Schools for Girls project, which saw 14,000 girls receive training in school from February to May, culminating in a series of regional tournaments. Now, with the support of the national ministry for education, leagues for girls' school teams are being organised.
To further strengthen the footballing base, women's internationals are being encouraged to attend national sports academies and train to be coaches or physical education teachers. An exhibition game between national team coaches and celebrities to mark International Women's Day on 8 March, meanwhile, drew plenty of publicity.
"Women play this sport for love – that's their biggest motivation," says Turkey Women's U15 coach Necla Güngör. "Girls can express themselves freely on the pitch. They find themselves by playing football." The excitement surrounding the Women's U19 finals in Antalya, which began on Monday, can only hope more girls find their calling.
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