Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Women’s Football World Cup a big boost for the sport in the Pacific

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Avatar photo
John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

Spain may have emerged victorious over England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday, but there are many more winners from this event, than just those who made the finals.

That’s the assessment, of FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football officer, Sarai Bareman, speaking on the eve of the final two games of the month-long tournament.

“I think this country has fallen in love with women’s football,” she enthuses. 

“To see the full stadiums, to hear everyone talking about it, to see young boys and men especially getting into it and loving it because of the sport, because of what they see on the field.”

After, 64 matches involving 32 national teams spread over four weeks of intense competition across two rugby mad host countries, Bareman is over the moon at how successful the tournament has been. 

“This world cup has proven that this sport is the most inclusive and diverse sport in the world I mean just look at all the fans that filled the stadium from every different nation and it’s beautiful to see the bazillians fans supporting the Japanese team you know the New Zealand, the kiwis have got behind all the teams that have been playing here it’s a beautifully inclusive and diverse space that we can thrive in as a community,” Bareman says.

Proud Samoan and Football Fern Malia Steinmetz. Photo: Tagata Pasifika.

For New Zealand’s elite players, like proud Samoan and Football Fern Malia Steinmetz, the World Cup has been a huge boost for the sport in this country.

“I think it’s just cool to see how this game is big and how its going back into this community and like, the people that I am around and how much of a flow-on it’s going to have in the future I think for this country and all the countries around here yeah, it’s exciting to see.”

And the spotlight wasn’t just on the tournament and host-countries during the event, FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino took the opportunity to visit neighbouring Pacific Islands countries who are part of the Oceania Football Confederation.

“He came back and said it was fantastic there that they are doing an incredible job,” Bareman says.

Mr Gianni Infantino, FIFA President visiting Tonga Football Federation. Photo: Tonga Football Association.

“The infrastructure, the federation, the way they are developing the sport; not only in Samoa, in Tonga and the Cook Islands, he was in Solomon Islands yesterday and he’s really using this World Cup as an opportunity to see how we can affect the Pacific nations as well and yeah, I think the opportunities that lie in the Pacific for football are incredible.” 

And it’s those opportunities that are helping to level-up the playing field to empower women – including Pasifika women – in sport. Bareman says she is proud to be part of a legacy of women’s sport in Aotearoa which continues to thrive. 

“I am so proud of what this country has achieved in sport you know the women’s rugby world cup and the cricket world cup that were both played here before this FIFA Women’s World Cup” she says.

“They already set an amazing pathway and to see you know the interest in women’s sport being so big, the number of women in leadership positions in this country, I’m proud to be part of that and I am proud that the generations coming after us will grow up in a sporting landscape where they don’t actually see gender, they just see sport.” 

Sarai Bareman, a former Samoan international player, is hopeful for the future. Photo: Tagata Pasifika.

And while a Pacific Island team failed to qualify for the world cup this time round, Bareman, a former Samoan international player, is hopeful for the future.

“We will see another Pacific nation at a world cup because Papua New Guinea, they were in the play-offs, they were nearly there and they’ll have another chance in four years time,” she says.

“And I think the explosion of interest after this world cup is going to motivate every single one of those countries to invest and develop women’s football even more than what they are doing today.” 

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