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Co-founder, coach and partner of GFA Lebanon, professional football player since 2006, captain of the academy’s senior team and player of the Lebanese National Team.
“I didn’t see much coming from the federation, so I reached a point in my life where I thought that there is a younger generation that deserves better.”
Growing up in Australia, Nadia Assaf was introduced to football at a very young age. In the beginning of her twenties, Nadia moved to Lebanon and witnessed how strongly female football players were frowned upon. For several years, she played for different clubs, which all gave priority to their men’s teams.
After years of struggling for an appropriate promotion of women’s football, she decided that there should be an academy exclusively for girls where they would get as much attention and priority as men and boys do within the conventional football structures and clubs. Nadia’s idea is to work at both the local level as well as at the international level where recognition can be gained. Every girls should have the possibility to develop her skills in accordance to her possibilities. As a result, she founded the first exclusive female football academy in the Middle East (GFA).
“Being a female football player doesn’t mean anything other than being a male football player. We should never differentiate. It’s the same sport!”
City: Beirut, Lebanon
Founded in: 2011
Greatest success: Forcing the federation to pay for the fields, GFA and other female clubs play on during the Lebanese League games.
Girls Football Academy
“I started kicking in my mother’s stomach!”
The Girls Football Academy (GFA) is the first private football academy for girls in the Middle East. It was founded by Nadia Assaf, who has been pursuing her dream of enabling women and girls of all ages to play football. This is being achieved through the creation of safe environments or so called “safe spaces”, in which the girls are not subject to public repression or political interests.
Private initiatives of this kind are essential in Lebanon because there is only limited support available for women’s football by the National Football Association. The country has been troubled by religious conflicts and civil war, team cohesion provides a demonstration of an alternative solution for society: Politics and religion no longer matter when the women, who come from a variety of religious backgrounds, come together to play football.
“I was all on my own, until I found GFA and discovered that there are other girls that love football as I do. It’s the best time I spend. But they tell me: ‘Find another hobby and love another sport!’”
Former football player in the Soviet Championship, coach and president of the Women’s Football Association of the Lviv region.
“Managing without official help!”
Iryna Vanat has always been a passionate football player. After finishing school, she moved from a rural area to Kiev and later to Moscow where some of the rare clubs for female players were based. Despite winning the Soviet Championship three times Iryna’s athletic success was still socially and institutionally disregarded. As the National Football Association disadvantaged female players in terms of financial and social esteem, she was forced to turn her back on playing football.
Approximately ten years later, Iryna could not stay inactive anymore and started her own football association for women. Investing her own personal savings into this project, football again has become more than a job, but, as Iryna says, “Football is a main part of my life. The development of my possibilities. The activation of my dreams and aims.”
“As a result of the Ukrainian government not helping to improve the situation of women’s football, some have taken this issue into their own hands and have rebuilt the stadiums or made repair”
City: Lviv, Ukraine
Founded in: 2010
Greatest success: Recruitment of a huge number of volunteers helping to rebuild fundamental infrastructural needs for female football players.
Women’s Football Association Lviv Region
“Do it yourself!”
For several years, FIFA’s funds assigned to women’s football have not reached local organizations and clubs in Ukraine. In 2011, some women under the leadership of Iryna Vanat decided to take the promotion of women’s football into their own hands and started to campaign autonomously for women’s football in the region of Lviv.
The association aims at raising the interest of local authorities for women’s football and putting pressure on the Ukrainian National Football Assocation. The women call for an inspector that monitors the quality of promotion of female football. The women still have to play on small pitches and do not receive any public support. In response to this, they develop a great expertise on futsal (small-sized variation of football) and repairing abandoned stadiums and fields.
“Football not only provides an opportunity to express yourself and get pleasure from it, but also helps you to develop – physically, mentally, socially.”