The chairman of UEFA's Women's Football Committee, Mircea Sandu, believes the improving quality of women's club and national teams in Europe, coupled with UEFA's ongoing commitment to development, will ensure the European game continues to flourish in the coming years.
The exceptional performances of Germany at last year's FIFA Women's World Cup in China provided ample evidence of the current healthy state of European women's football, although the achievements of Silvia Neid's world champions were not the only highlight in an eventful 12 months. "It was a wonderful year," Sandu told uefa.com after chairing the committee's latest meeting in Nyon. "Germany's performances in China were fantastic, but there was also the [UEFA] European [Women's] Under-19 Championship in Iceland and an exciting UEFA Women's Cup campaign. I watched the Women's World Cup final between Germany and Brazil, Arsenal LFC's UEFA Women's Cup final against Umeå IK, and the European U19 Championship final between Germany and England; they were all extraordinary showpiece matches that could rival the men's game for quality and excitement."
Sandu said he felt the female game was in a particularly exciting phase at the moment that he was appointed chairman of UEFA Women's Football Committee last year, and he is convinced that standards continue to rise. "The physical strength of the players might not be the same [as in men's football], but nowadays the technical levels in women's football are on a par with the men's game," the Romanian said. "We need to keep working to promote and develop the game, but I'm sure that in five years' time women's football will be more widely respected than ever."
The committee's responsibilities include monitoring the implementation of UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ in Finland and the UEFA Women's Cup finals, looking into the UEFA Women's Cup format and making recommendations on potential format changes, recommending a format for the European qualifying competition for the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany and drawing up the regulations for both of these competitions. In addition, the committee is responsible for the European women's calendar, including coordination of the UEFA dates with FIFA competitions.
One of the main topics on the latest meeting's agenda was women's club football, in the form of the UEFA Women's Cup and club licensing for top division women sides. While the committee feels it is not yet the time to put in place a club licensing system defining quality standards which must be fulfilled by teams entering in the UEFA Women's Cup, the committee took the first steps in this direction by agreeing to draw up a 'Best Practice' manual. The UEFA Women's Cup – the pinnacle for women's clubs in Europe and the first female club competition on a continental level – has grown in consequence since its debut in 2001 and discussions as to how to raise the competition to the next level were ongoing.
Coaching in women's football is another key issue, as Sandu explained: "Our committee has put in place a development programme for those national associations not participating in the group stage of the 2007/09 European Women's Championship qualifying competition. The programme includes assisting these associations in organising friendly mini-tournaments, and in sending to these experienced coaching mentors who meet with and share their knowledge of the women's game with the national team coaches from these 'developing' nations. The extremely positive feedback received from the first round of these friendly mini-tournaments has proved the value of this development programme and we are looking forward to building on this first success in the next three rounds, due to be completed in spring 2009, ensuring that these nations will be ready to enter the next UEFA women's A-team competition starting in September 2009."
The promotion of the women's game remains a fundamental part of the committee's work, although Sandu believes the national associations must play an important role in this regard. "Promotion is a subject we take very seriously at UEFA," he said. "One way of promoting the game is through our competitions, but we also urge our national associations to work hard in their countries to establish relationships with the education ministries and the media."
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