Two years ago, no one talked about women’s football in football-mad Chile. Now, thanks to preparatory activities for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup (19 November – 7 December 2008), Chile is a model of how to develop a sport by engaging the public in an event. Here key people talk about what is happening in Chile.
EDUARDO ROJAS, Local Organising Committee (LOC) General Manager
How are preparations for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008 going?
Eduardo Rojas: We have four new stadiums being built for the tournament and they were 70 percent completed at the end of August. We are in the countdown phase, so we face a lot of challenges whose resolution is very important for Chile and its image. On 13 September, we had the official draw with 16 delegations in attendance. That was our biggest challenge to date: showing our accommodation, training facilities and the stadiums.
What have been the highlights of organising this tournament?
Rojas: The LOC is a big team and we have a lot of women working with us. The activities that we have organised in preparation for the World Cup are also very important, such as the U-15 girls’ national football festival, two four-nations tournaments and the South American U-17 Women’s Championship. Those were all huge successes. And the national team has had the best-ever preparation, with tours to Europe, Central America and the States. Before we started working here, such things where only a dream, and I think that all these moments are unforgettable. Even our smallest actions will be regarded as huge steps in the future.
How will this event change Chiie?
Rojas: I think this tournament will help overcome some prejudices. Two years ago, there was no mention of women’s football, but now it is a huge new market. Women have made the move into football and they’re here to stay! We are also organising a new national competition for women. For us, it is very important that when the World Cup is over, the women’s game will continue to develop. After all, “the future of football is feminine,” as FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter said back in 1995, so we are preparing them to take on this responsibility.
What is your evaluation of the team’s programme so far?
Marta Tejedor: It has been a really long programme. Since I arrived in Chile in June 2007, there have been different phases, each with different objectives. When I started working with this team, everything was at varying stages. We have seen really big and important changes -physically, in how the girls “read” the game, in their focus … We are very happy with the results so far, they have been good. The last evaluation will be after the World Cup; only then will we see the real changes in the team.
What have been the frustrations?
Tejedor: 1 think injuries are always a frustration, but I also think that you can learn something from frustrations. When we competed in the South American U-20 Women’s Championship in March, I expected us to achieve a better result than we did (fourth place). But because of that result I realised we had made some big mistakes and we have consequently been working on those areas.
And the highlights?
Tejedor: I think a big achievement has been that our players are following our plan to the letter. They believe in this project, and they have a huge amount of support from the general public. They have had to change their way of playing, their physical capacity, and their way of thinking on the field … all of those things are big achievements. I also think that the new competitive league (the women’s first division, launched in May) has raised awareness of the game.
How have the team developed in the last few months?
Tejedor: They have changed a lot. When I arrived here the team played almost intuitively. They played like they thought they should play, which was fine individually, but not as a team. They also had very few skills to resolve some situations on the pitch. Now we have a completely different team: they work and play like a group.
Who will be the teams to beat in this tournament?
Tejedor: The strongest teams will be Germany, USA, Korea DPR and Brazil. The other participants are very strong too, the best in the world, but the ones 1 just mentioned axe the strongest, and 1 hope we won’t have to face any of them in the first round. But in a championship like this, anyone can beat anyone.
NATHALIE QUEZADA, Chile U-20 national team forward
Would you be proud to play in this FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup?
Nathalie Quezada: We don’t know who will play yet, but everyone is trying to earn their place in the team. But if I imagine it, I think I would be very proud. The happiness that you feel representing your country in a World Cup is something indescribable. If I play I will definitely give one hundred percent. I will play with my heart. I think that the only thing we want now is to do everything well and represent our country in the best way possible.
How do you think playing in this tournament would affect you?
Quezada: I think I would achieve a lot of things I have always wanted to in life. Playing a World Cup is something you don’t do every day. It is a really big opportunity for us because it opens a lot ofdoots. I hope that when the World Cup is over, I will get an offer from a team. I really want to play abroad.
What would you most like to happen for Chile in this tournament?
Quezada: I think we will do a good job. We have worked really hard. Every day we train for more than six hours, so I hope that we will play like we have been. For me the most important thing Is to do things well and never feel like you didn’t give a hundred per cent.
DANIELA PARDO, Chile U-20 national team midfielder and captain
How do you feel about playing in front of a home crowd and in a FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup?
Daniela Pardo: I think I will be very nervous – anxiety mixed with a unique sense of happiness and satisfaction.
What are you most looking forward to?
Pardo: A lot of people will come to see us and ask us things — they will be interested in us. I want that day to hurry up and get here – I am very excited about it. My only hope is to arrive at the World Cup in the best possible form and to play really well, because I think that each one of us knows this is a huge opportunity that can open a lot of doors for us.
How do you think the team will do?
Pardo: I think people will be surprised. I don’t know if we will be in the top three, but we are working hard to achieve something important. I just know we will play really well and put on a good show for everyone.