UEFA has launched a ground-breaking initiative, aimed at transforming perceptions of women's football and encouraging girls to take up and continue playing the game.
This new initiative will see UEFA working closely with its 55 member associations in order to ensure that football is the number one sport for women across Europe by 2020.
Get involved with Together #WePlayStrong
• Website: WePlayStrong.org
• Twitter: @WePlayStrong_
• Facebook: facebook.com/WePlayStrong/
• Instagram: instagram.com/weplaystrong/
• YouTube: youtube.com/user/UEFA
Together #WePlayStrong gets under way with an inspirational film that will be aired just before kick-off of Thursday's UEFA Women's Champions League final in Cardiff between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain. Watch the full film in the player above.
The initiative will also be promoted in TV spots to be shown not only during Thursday's match but also the men's UEFA Champions League final between Juventus and Real Madrid, also taking place in Cardiff on Saturday.
Geared primarily towards girls between the ages of 13 and 17, the campaign is founded upon the results of research conducted by the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, which has 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 make friends and learn vital life skills.
The majority of girls 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 matches, it was the shared experience that they valued, rather than winning.
A crucial aim of Together #WePlayStrong 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 initiative is backed by UEFA's 55 member associations, as well as a number of celebrity supporters from the worlds of sport, entertainment and music.
Today's launch kicks off a series of events, media activities and local grassroots initiatives across Europe, leading up to this summer's UEFA Women's EURO 2017 tournament in the Netherlands, and continuing into 2018.
UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin hailed the initiative. "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 the Together #WePlayStrong movement can be a driving force across our 55 national associations to achieve this."
The initative was also heralded by UEFA women's football advisor Nadine Kessler, 2014 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year and UEFA Best Women's Player in Europe: "Whether you are playing at the UEFA Women's EURO or in the park with friends," she said, "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. 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."
The campaign also has the backing of the European Commission, with commissioner for sport Tibor Navracsics adding that it will give a welcome boost to women's football. "Football is so much more than a game," he said. "It promotes social inclusion and has the ability to transcend race, religion and gender.
"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!"
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