UEFA and its member associations are committed to fostering the development of women's football throughout Europe – with a special event in Portugal on Saturday set to highlight the work being undertaken in that country to nurture the female game.
Women's Football Day will take place to coincide with the Portuguese Women's Football Cup final, which, for the second consecutive year, is being played at the National Stadium in Jamor. The day will serve as both a celebration of this branch of the game and a tribute to the players and clubs that have been investing in women's football.
When the two finalists, 1º de Dezembro and Futebol Benfica, enter what is perhaps the emblematic stage of Portuguese sport, they will be making an important contribution to the promotion of women's football – and attracting the attention of a country which, slowly, is discovering the female game.
Portugal are among 53 UEFA national associations benefiting from the importance being attached to women's football by UEFA, with the help of its Knowledge & Information Sharing Scenario (KISS) and HatTrick projects, and backed by the UEFA Executive Committee.
At its meeting in Prague in December, the UEFA Executive Committee noted the huge growth in European women's football in terms of both registered players and participation, and agreed to support the UEFA Women's Football Development Programme (WFDP) via yearly payments of €100,000 between 2012 and 2016. These payments will come from the HatTrick III scheme. The big day on Saturday is a pilot project under the WFDP to assess the impact of UEFA’s investment steps.
"With Women's Football Day," said Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) sporting director Carlos Godinho, "we intend, firstly, to support the Portuguese Cup final by bringing to Lisbon and the National Stadium the main supporters of this branch of the game, who are, in fact, its players, the young women from all over the country who – from north to south – play football and futsal with enormous passion. They are its great support.
"We want to turn the day into a great celebration of women's football and, for that purpose, we will have its great protagonists involved. We are preparing a number of activities, running parallel to the final, in particular a photo exhibition on the women's national team which will be inaugurated the day before [the match].
"On the day of the final, we will try to bring teams from all over the country, connected to school sport and our competitions, to participate in a tournament in the morning and early afternoon on the pitches adjacent to the National Stadium. The idea is that these players can then watch the final, providing colour and a special warm atmosphere for such an important match," he added.
That 1º de Dezembro and Futebol Benfica will meet on what many consider the major stage of Portuguese football, is a recent and encouraging development. "This is a battle we have been fighting for some years – both the football department of the FPF and the players and clubs – because we thought women's football deserved the same dignity and treatment as men's, although the dimension is obviously different," explained Godinho.
"We achieved this last year in a good final, with 7 to 8,000 spectators, a very respectable number which – until recent times – would have been unachievable in Portugal. This year we would like to have the same attendance – and therefore we count on everyone who likes football to be present in Jamor to support those young women who are fighting to promote women's football."
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