The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has praised the progress being made in Australia in the area of women’s football.
The AFC acknowledged that women's football is developing in Australia at an impressive speed following the announcement that Westfield Matildas duo Caitlin Foord and Lisa De Vanna have been announced in the three-women shortlist for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women's Player of the Year Award, to be presented at the AFC Annual Awards in Abu Dhabi on December 1.
The shortlisting of Foord and De Vanna comes in the same week that the leading global role Australia has assumed in women’s football development was recognised by the 2016 International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Women and Sport Awards.
Australia remain Asia’s highest ranked women’s national team on the FIFA Women’s Rankings, with the Matildas currently in seventh.
“Australia’s role within Asia has been impressive – particularly in the area of women’s football,” said AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa.
“They are an important contributor to the AFC, as their successful hosting of the Asian Cup 2015 demonstrated.
“We are looking forward to continuing our close co-operation with the Football Federation of Australia in the years to come for the benefit of football not only in Australia but in Asia as a whole under the banner of One Asia, One Goal.”
The future of the women’s game is also bright “Down Under”, with the young Matildas having recently qualified for the AFC U-19 Women’s Championship China 2017.
Australian female refereeing was in the international spotlight as Australian referees Kate Jacewicz and Renae Coghill, together with India’s Uvena Fernandes, completed the all-AFC affair at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan in October.
The FFA have also run an exchange programme with ASEAN members and female administrators from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam have spent two weeks in Australia, participating in workshops, visiting the Australian Institute of Sport and spending time with FFA, regional association and W League club management. Participants from other ASEAN Member Associations will join the programme over the next 18 months.
But it is not only in women’s football that Australia, who joined the AFC in 2006, are taking an active and positive lead. Their support for the unity of Asian football has been backed by their assistance to many AFC Member Associations in the last year.
According to the AFC, the close co-operation with Football Federation Australia (FFA) has been a significant factor in aiding many of those Member Associations achieve their potential and the programmes are starting to show positive results.
Only recently the A League, Australia’s premier club competition, signed a historic agreement with Japan’s J-League in which the two countries will share technical, marketing and administrative expertise. The deal will also lead to the joint promotion of AFC Champions League games.
And to encourage Australian clubs to sign – and develop – players from other Asian countries the FFA Board has recently decided to move towards introducing the ‘plus one’ rule in the Hyundai A-League in coming seasons which will allow more Asian players to take part in the rapidly developing competition, which has seen increased crowds and television audiences this season as standards continue to rise.
In India, FFA have signed an MOU with the All India Football Federation where it is conducting grassroots participation programmes throughout schools in the State of Kerala.