UK’s Largest Female Only Futsal Tournament a Huge Success!
By Anisa Tirmizi and Ayesha Abdeen
Spirits were high on the morning of Sunday 16th October 2011, as thirteen teams from across the UK entered through the doors of the Birmingham International Futsal arena, hearts racing… rearing to go! They were going to be competing in the MWSF Futsal Festival ‘ the UK’s largest exclusively female futsal tournament, organised by the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation (MWSF) supported by the FA and Kick It Out.
The number of teams competing this year had grown significantly, more than doubling in fact from six teams to thirteen. This growth in number demonstrated just how rapidly interest in the game had increased, particularly amongst black and minority ethnic (BME) women, as well as the demand for female only competitions catering to the cultural sensitivities of community teams who are otherwise overlooked.
The larger scale and venue allowed for the first time in Futsal Festival history a Cup and Plate competition, enabling teams of all abilities the opportunity to take away silverware. The Plate final was played between MWSF Storm from Manchester and All Sports Women from Birmingham. After a tense penalty shoot out Storm proved the stronger team, taking home the plate.
The Cup final was an all London affair played between defending champions, the MWSF Cobras and newcomers Brent Ladies. Whilst the Cobra’s put up a tough fight, the Messi-like skills of Brent Ladies proved too much and they went on to a well deserved 5-1 win to claim the title of MWSF Futsal Festival Champions 2011.
Special guest appearances at the tournament included England’s longest reigning Manager across both genders, Hope Powell, head coach of the senior women’s football team and Rachel Yankey, England international with 115 caps, who both answered questions from competitors keen to learn from the experience and success of two truly inspirational women. Surprise appearances also came from England and Birmingham City stars, Karen Carney and Laura Bassett.
The dynamic event brought together grassroots women and girls with those working at the elite level and the delight for all was clear to see when, on entering the arena and witnessing the scale of the tournament, Hope commented “this is such a fantastic event.”
Also present was the FA’s National Women’s Football Development Manager, Rachel Pavlou who spoke of the importance of the MWSF in providing not only competitions, but also opportunities to volunteer and gain experience for those wishing to pursue careers in sport.
This year’s Futsal Festival was not just about teams coming together to compete for a prize. It was also about developing women’s futsal in the UK and one of the biggest areas in need is the field of refereeing. Earlier in the year, the MWSF in partnership with the FA qualified eighteen female futsal referees who, as part of the scheme, were offered the opportunity to be mentored by senior referees at the Futsal Festival, including one of the highest ranked female referees in the country, Lorraine Deschamps. Commenting on the day Lorraine spoke about how impressed she was by the quality of futsal being played as well as the high spirits and good nature of the competition.
Alongside the main event, representatives from the FA, Kick It Out other national governing bodies and organisations such as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Run England, Rounders England and Sporting Equals were also present enabling participants to network and gain valuable information on funding, qualifications and other opportunities for their teams. Kevin Coleman, Grassroots Development Officer for Kick It Out commented “This is the best women’s event I’ve seen. The sisters really were doing it for themselves! They all seemed very comfortable at the event and it was woman focused.”
On speaking about the difficulties community teams face, Rimla Akhtar, Chair of the MWSF said “it is important to recognise that running a community team is not easy and it can be a very tough and bumpy road. Through our work and events such as the Futsal Festival, we have the opportunity to bring together different spectrums of the sporting world, which more often than not can lead to mutually beneficial partnerships and ultimately more women becoming physically active.”
She went on to add “we thank all our guests, volunteers and sponsors – the Football Foundation, The Muslim News, The FA, Kick It Out, @Futsal, Coca Cola Powerade, Pak Supermarkets Birmingham, LaSenza, Mars Refuel, She Kicks magazine, Costco, The Listening Service and FARE whom without their help and support this year’s event would not have been possible.”
(c) 2011 Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation. Picture: Hayat Photography
For more information about the MWSF please visit, www.mwsf.org.uk