The first united women's national league begins in Bosnia and Herzegovina this weekend thanks to the assistance of UEFA and its women’s football development programme.
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A historic moment has arrived for football in Bosnia and Herzegovina with this weekend's kick-off of the first united women's national Premier League. UEFA has made a significant contribution to getting the united competition underway in conjunction with the Bosnia and Herzegovina Football Federation (NFSBiH), as part of the UEFA women's football development Programme (WFDP).
Eight teams will take part in the league – five from the NFSBiH league: SFK 2000 Sarajevo, ZNK Zenica Čelik, ZNK Gradina Srebrenik, ZNK Salt City Tuzla and ZNK Mladost Nević Polje; and three from the league of the Republic of Srpska: Banja Luka, Radnik Bumurang (Bijeljina) and Mladost Novi Grad (Bosanski Novi).
The competition will be played over 14 rounds from autumn to spring. Until now, the women's championship had been played in the separate leagues, with the national champion emerging from a final round.
Thanks to the new league, women's football is sure to receive a massive boost at all levels in Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the country's campaign to raise interest in the women’s game and attract more women and girls to take part in the sport, either as players, referees, volunteers or officials.
In their WFDP project, the NFSBiH aimed to create a united women's Premier League, and pledged to help create stable clubs who will be able to attract youth players and sponsors. The new competition will also promote women's football through the development of stronger clubs, and another key objective is to increase both the number of registered female players and the number of registered women's football clubs – while at the same time promoting key values such as tolerance and fair play.
The new Premer League is seen as a long-term project with new clubs joining each season – thereby giving more women and young girls an opportunity to play football in a country which has a great passion for the game. Close links will be formed between the national association and regional bodies, and UEFA's financial assistance is seen as essential in helping the new competition and women's football in Bosnia and Herzegovina look forward to a sound future. A more long-term goal is the creation of a second division, along with regional Under-19 and U17 competitions.
SFK 2000 Sarajevo has enjoyed success in women's competitions, and has won the title ten times in a row. The club is confident of further success in the new Premier League, but is aware that competition will be stiff. "This is a major breakthrough for women's soccer, and after the first season of the joint league, the results will be visible," said Samira Hurem, coach of both Sarajevo and the national team, who finished fourth in their qualifying group for UEFA Women's EURO 2013.
"Our goal is for our clubs, as well as the national teams, to have more success in the UEFA competitions," she added. "More young girls will also be 'stepping into the water' to play football."
Earlier this month, SFK 2000 Sarajevo hosted qualifying round Group 1 matches in this season's UEFA Women’s Champions League, and finished second, narrowly missing out on qualification after beating Cardiff City FC and FC NSA Sofia but losing to Konak Belediyespor.