The St. Kitts and Nevis Football Association (SKNFA) made its newest pitch to introduce football to girls by means of a festival between five primary schools, played 30th September, at the Football Stadium, Warner Park.
Participating girls from Beach-Allen, Dean-Glasford, Irish Town, Dr. William Connor, and Tucker-Clarke Primary Schools showed how eager they were to kick the ball around and get some goals too. They became totally absorbed and the early signs of teamwork were already evident.
Some were even seen practicing a few moves they obviously would have seen. These girls were not intimidated in any way, but seemed intent on winning the festival. It is the kind of exposure that the SKNFA wants to have with the girls of primary school age, as it lays the foundation for what is to come.
SKNFA Technical Director Lenny Lake said, “We want to develop more awareness that girls can play the game on their own. What we are hoping is that these girls will end up enjoying the game and want to continue playing, and in so doing, we can then have a pathway developed for them to play.”
Lake said the intention is to create the environment for the further development of the sport in the schools, indicating the Football Association will work with the Ministries of Sports and Education to develop a proper structure of administration.
The long-term strategy is that each school will have its own team, and we can have an actual league, but this is where we start. The girls are enthusiastic and are enjoying themselves. Some might not have kicked a ball before, so it is all fun,” Lake said.
Lake believes that the interest in women’s football is increasing in popularity, and it is important to start shaping its immediate future. Lake said, “If we don’t start at this stage, we will never have the development of the girls at the senior level. So, the base has to be expanded to increase the number of girls who play.”
The development path for girls football will include club football, youth teams then onto the senior team and a national women’s team, the technical director informed.
Reflecting on developing girls football in the primary schools, Lake said some challenges of the past where both boys and girls played together centered around the girls feeling uncomfortable playing with the boys, so they don’t come forward, or the boys will not pass the football to the girls. He said that kind of situation will not encourage girls to play the game.
Lake said, “What will happen now is that there is no discrimination, and the girls would be able to enjoy the game and be more actively involved, instead of standing around waiting for the ball to come their way. Today, you can see almost all of them running, playing, actively engaged in the game. So once they are engaged and have the interest in playing, then you can begin to teach them.”
Each school participating in the football festival received four footballs, plus several pieces of football attire, including jerseys, pants, socks, boots and bibs.
Lenny said it was an important contribution from CONCACAF to start the program in the primary schools. “We wanted to make sure they have the right gear in which to play the sport. The public schools are involved, and we have recently added some private schools. It is quite a substantial investment in getting the program going,” Lake stated.