Turkey’s girls play for future

Turkey’s girls play for future

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s girls play for future

Turkey was held to a goalless draw against Portugal in its first game at the UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship in Antalya. AA photo

Turkey meets Denmark in a key game at the 2012 UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship in Antalya tonight. The two teams will meet in the Mardan Sports Complex in Antalya at 7:30 p.m.

Denmark leads the Group A with three points after one match, with Turkey and Portugal following with one point each. Romania is fourth with zero points. Portugal and Romania will also play tonight at the World of Wonders Football Center in Antalya.

On the tournament’s opening day July 2, a 92nd-minute winner from Christina Bovbjerg proved the undoing of a resilient Romania, as Denmark took the early Group A lead. Turkey and Portugal got one point apiece after a goalless draw the same day.

Turkey is not a powerhouse in women’s football, and hopes that a successful performance in its 2012 UEFA Women’s U-19 Championship debut might build a platform on which a good foundation can be laid for the sport. Turkey’s hosting the tournament comes a few years after the Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) initiatives aimed at encouraging more girls to play football.

“Launched in July 2008, the TFF’s Girls’ Football Villages scheme brings together groups of youngsters aged 11-12 for 10 days of basic training with national-team coaches,” a report from the UEFA read. “The girls also learn about nutrition and first aid, while lessons in chess and even drama help foster a fun environment.”

Last year, the TFF introduced the Football Schools for Girls project, which saw 14,000 girls receive training from February to May, culminating in a series of regional tournaments. Now, with the support of the national Ministry of Education, leagues for girls’ school teams are being organized.

To further strengthen the football base, women’s internationals are being encouraged to attend national sports academies and train to be coaches or physical education teachers. An exhibition game between national team coaches and celebrities to mark International Women’s Day on March 8, meanwhile, drew plenty of publicity.

“Women play this sport for love – that’s their biggest motivation,” Turkey Women’s U15 coach Necla Güngör was quoted as saying on the UEFA website. “Girls can express themselves freely on the pitch. They find themselves by playing football.”

If the national team can do well on its home field, the country’s sports agenda will turn its attention toward women’s football more than ever.

Turkey will play its final group game against Romania, while Portugal and Denmark will also play on July 8. Spain will meet England while Sweden takes on Serbia also in Group B games tonight. Spain leads the Group B after crushing Serbia 3-0, and Sweden follows with a 1-0 victory over England.