With just a few short days remaining until kick off for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, there would be no fitting way for me to reflect on the journey of women’s football in Armenia, than to share my experience having spent a day out with GOALS during my most recent visit.
It was Thursday, May 23 on an overcast day in the Armavir region of Armenia, where I attended the closing ceremony of the Women’s Football League in Armavir which had been organised by GOALS, an NGO that empowers girls through soccer, helping to build the confident, creative and charismatic leaders of tomorrow. This football league is just one of a variety of ways that GOALS aims to show a red card to any negative stereotypes towards girls playing football throughout Armenia, all while providing an open pitch for girls to express themselves and discuss social issues in a safe environment.
Having travelled to the local Armavir Sports complex, I had the opportunity to learn more about the program and the specific Armavir League with President of GOALS, Lorik Hartounian and the Armavir Football League Coordinator, Ozheni Avetisyan. I also had the chance to learn more about women’s football in Armenia overall with Anna Tadevosyan who is the Head of the Women’s Football Unit at the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA), which GOALS has established a formal partnership with at the start of this year.
It was explained to me that the Armavir League first began in mid-2018, starting off with 5 registered football teams. I had the great pleasure of being present to watch the final of this league, contested between the two teams Arpi and Shenik. Having witnessed a wonderful contest of a final, Arpi came out on top having won the match and also winning the Armavir League. As a result of their success, Arpi now have the opportunity and honour to represent Armavir in the summer at the National Women’s Football Tournament hosted by GOALS, competing against the best teams who have won their regional competitions throughout Armenia.
What I witnessed on this day was absolutely outstanding. In this small, local sporting arena managed by the regional government, there was a space for girls to shine. After watching the fierce battle and comradery between the two teams, I have no doubt that some of the girls have a future in representing Armenia at a national team level. With the proper coaching, development and resources, these girls will be able to run confidently onto any outdoor field or indoor arena and represent their team, their club and maybe one day their country with great pride. What GOALS has helped create is exactly what is needed to tackle any negative perceptions of women playing sport throughout Armenia, and promotes the potential growth of some new home-born success stories.
Having grown up my entire life in Australia, football for women has been strongly encouraged, and this is evident by the recognition of star athletes such as Australia’s Captain Sam Kerr, Ellie Carpenter and Caitlin Foord just to name a few, who are about to compete at the Women’s World Cup for the Australian Matildas. Seeing the success of these women are great examples of what great positivity, energy and commitment towards a professional sporting program starting at grassroots level can do for Armenia. Who knows, maybe one day, one of the girls that I witnessed in the Armavir League could become the next Sam Kerr of Armenia and represent her nation at the grandest stage of them all! This is why after seeing the wonderful work of GOALS first hand, and seeing the smiles and happy faces of all the girls participating and being active, that it is so important to get behind this amazing NGO and help create a better future for the girls of Armenia.
Thank you to GOALS for inviting me as a guest on this special day and providing me with the opportunity to have everlasting memories of the goals scored both on and off the field.
By Arin Markarian