By Ogova Ondego
Published April 25, 2015
BBC, the London-based global multi-platform broadcaster, has introduced an award to “celebrate the top female footballers currently competing in one of the world’s fastest-growing sports” ahead of the 2015 edition of FIFA Women’s World Cup scheduled for June 6-July 5 in the Canadian cities of Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
BBC, that is set to announce five shortlisted candidates for the award on April 26, 2015 at 1500GMT, says it is giving fans the chance to vote for their favourite female footballers in what it calls “the first award of its kind hosted by a global broadcaster.” The winner of the award that was announced on March 29, 2015 will be unveiled on May 26, 2015.
“This award is a great opportunity to highlight the incredible skill level and depth of talent that exists in women’s football globally,” Caroline Rigby, managing editor of the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year, said at the inauguration of the award. “It will demonstrate how far the game has come in recent years and will enable fans to introduce new fans to the best players in the world.”
As BBC announces the top five female players, women’s soccer managers and promoters in Africa (do they exist here?) shall be hard pressed to explain why this female side of the world’s most popular sport appears not to have taken off the launch pad as expected.
The 24 teams competing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament in 2015 are Africa’s Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast; Asia’s China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand; South America’s Brazil, Colombia and Equador; North America’s Canada, United States of America, Costa Rica and Mexico; Oceania’s Australia and New Zealand; and Europe’s England, France, Germany, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and The Netherlands, .
The last time I covered women’s soccer was eight years ago, 2007 to be precise, when I reported on a programme for girls that was in its fourth edition. The event was run by a Nairobi organisation known as Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA). But I haven’ heard much about that International Girls Tournament since then.
Then, MYSA had informed me that they not only mentored girls as young as eight to play football professionally, but that they also trained them to coach, referee, and administer soccer.
However, I was further informed that soccer-playing girls were considered as either ‘masculine women’ or ‘not women enough’ and were derided, if not shunned, by boys. But many girls kept on playing largely because they earned money with which they paid school fees, bought school books and uniform, games kit, mattresses and blankets for themselves and their families.
Indeed, soccer had enabled many of these girls to travel out of the Mathare Valley informal settlement for tournaments in places like The Netherlands, Norway, Italy, Tanzania and Uganda .
As BBC announced its inaugural Women’s Footballer of the Year Award and pledged to broadcast all the games of the Women’s World Cup in Canada,Â I thought about the soccer-playing girls of Nairobi’s Mathare Valley. I wondered whether any of them would make the shortlist. I am aware Kenya did not qualify for the Women’s World Cup and so the chance of seeing any of these girls in a stadium in Canada would have been wishful thinking.
Well, back to the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2015; how were the five shortlisted candidates selected?
BBC says the list was “drawn up by leading football experts around the world, consisting of women’s football journalists, coaches, administrators and former players. The experts were asked to name their top five contenders in order of preference: 5 points for their top player, 4 to second and so on.”
The experts selected their nominations according to “technical ability, impact on club and/or country results, consistency, improved level of performance, teamwork, and fairplay.”
Only players who “represent a recognised national or club level women’s football team” are eligible for the BBC Women’s Footballer Award of the Year 2015.
BBC says “the award will be decided by public vote. The public can vote online through the BBC website at bbc.com/womensfootball or by SMS.”
The voting shall commence at 1700GMT on April 26 and close at 0900GMT on May 11, 2015.
BBC will air every game from the FIFA Women’s World Cup from Canada via television, radio and online.