IN­FANTINO’S ‘PLEDGE TO GIVE BOOST TO WOMEN’

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Kieran Thievam

NEW FIFA pres­i­dent Gianni In­fantino thinks there’s a lot that needs to be done to pro­mote women’s foot­ball, ac­cord­ing to Eng­land leg­end Kelly Smith.

Smith was in Zurich last week as part of an im­promptu ‘friendly match’ that new pres­i­dent In­fantino or­gan­ised at short no­tice fol­low­ing his elec­tion. It also fea­tured past pros from the men’s game, in­clud­ing Paolo Mal­dini, Luis Figo and for­mer Real Madrid and Bolton de­fender Fer­nando Hierro.

The cur­rent Arse­nal Ladies player and as­sis­tant coach was in­vited to take part to rep­re­sent women’s foot­ball.

And, with so many women’s in­ter­na­tional matches tak­ing place at present, she was just one of three fe­male play­ers in at­ten­dance.

She said: “I re­ceived a call on Satur­day through a FIFA con­tact, who said the pres­i­dent wanted me to come and play in a match with FIFA staff and for­mer play­ers.

“It was all last­minute, but it was a great oc­ca­sion and an hon­our to go and rep­re­sent women’s foot­ball, es­pe­cially with so many play­ers be­ing away on in­ter­na­tional duty.

“I think they prob­a­bly scraped the bar­rel with me!”

With more than 100 caps for Eng­land and the hon­our of be­ing record scorer for her coun­try, it can hardly be de­scribed as scrap­ing the bar­rel...

Ger­mans Me­lanie Le­upolz (Bay­ern Mu­nich) and Ju­lia Simic (Wolfs­burg) joined Smith as the only women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the match, but the op­por­tu­nity to be part of an event that came less than 72 hours af­ter In­fantino was elected is not some­thing the 37-year-old is tak­ing for granted.

While she was un­able to have an in-depth con­ver­sa­tion with Sepp Blat­ter’s re­place­ment, her day in Zurich did al­low her to at least ex­change a few words.

She said: “We asked him what his plans were for mov­ing the women’s game for­ward.

“He just smiled and said there is a lot to do to pro­mote women’s foot­ball.

“He said he’s up for it and it’s a big chal­lenge. I think we’ll see a lot of changes be­cause he seems very much for women’s foot­ball.

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

As for Smith, she’s look­ing ahead to the up­com­ing FA Women’s Su­per League sea­son af­ter fi­nally agree­ing a new con­tract with Arse­nal Ladies to con­tinue play­ing for an­other year.

She said: “I love this club and they made me feel wanted.

“I couldn’t re­ally say no to be hon­est.”

KELLY: In the eye of change

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