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Girls’ football fever hits Onehunga3 min read

Jun 11, 2024 2 min

Girls’ football fever hits Onehunga3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Girl footballers in action (photo credit: Steve Barrell)

The Onehunga Sports Football Club has seen a surge in girl footballers since the Women’s World Cup concluded.

According to the club’s president, youth coordinator and coach, Jannine Stewart, the club has reported an astonishing 300% rise in the number of six to eight-year-old girls, leading to the formation of three all-girls Mountain Football teams – a first for the club. There is a 50% increase among four to five year-olds in their ‘First Kicks’ programme, a 50% rise in youth players aged 13 and older, and participation among nine to 12-year-olds has doubled. The women’s teams have also seen a 10% rise, while the boys’ teams have increased by 50%.

“The Women’s World Cup was an amazing advertisement for football in this country,” says Jannine. “I have never seen so many people enjoy the sport, and the atmosphere at the games was incredible. The fantastic level of skill and professionalism from all the female footballers was inspiring, and I think that is what drew so many girls in.”

She says another inspiration is that each club was given the chance to select girls to be part of the World Cup. There were five girls from the local club that were flag bearers and escorts, and they had the amazing opportunity to be part of a momentous occasion.

“I really believe that seeing themselves, and even their friends on tv and news shows that were broadcast around the world, left a lasting impression on many girls, which sparked a newfound enthusiasm for football.”

The Onehunga Sports Football Club is planning extra training sessions for the girls, featuring championship team players and youth players as mentors.

“I hope the girls enjoy it so much that it results in a lifelong love for the sport,” says Jannine.

She admits the surge has brought new challenges in terms of meeting the growing demand. She says the club has reached out to Refugee and Asylum Seekers Support (RASNZ) to offer playing opportunities to women, and has provided three sponsored spots to local schools for children who have a passion for football, but face financial barriers.

The club also supports all levels of ability and experience for the senior women, creating a pathway from juniors to seniors, at their own pace. This will foster a love for the game – and a long playing career.

The local club is unique as they don’t have a men’s first team, and the women’s team are the top club team.

“We cater to our girls’ abilities, and upskill our women’s teams without too much conflict with the men’s teams, which is costly to run. A large part of our revenue goes back into our players in the form of outsourcing skills coaching, for boys and girls.”