- Luxembourg to participate in Women’s World Cup qualifying for first time
- Daniel Santos has been coach of the ladies’s nationwide staff since 2020
- “We may be able to scrape a point here and there,” he says
In Germany, one in seven registered players is feminine, equating to some 1.1 million girls and ladies energetic within the sport there. That determine is nearly twice your complete inhabitants of Luxembourg, which borders Belgium, France and Germany. And whereas Die Nationalelf have by no means missed an version of a FIFA Women’s World Cup™, the Grand Duchy’s nationwide staff are making ready to participate within the qualifiers for the worldwide occasion for the primary time.
“We’re very much looking forward to them,” Daniel Santos, coach since August 2020, tells FIFA.com. “We discussed it for a long time within the association and with our president because we were unsure whether or not we should do it. We knew that we’d draw two or three big teams and that there could be some major setbacks, but that’s the way it is. We’re not at the required level yet. However, we’d have the same problem if we did it in two years’ time. There will always be some doubts, but you have to start at some point.”
For Luxembourg, that begin entails fixtures in opposition to England, Austria, Northern Ireland, Latvia and North Macedonia, that are the one staff on this group beneath them within the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking. “It’s a very appealing group,” says Santos. “We could possibly scrape some extent right here and there. It’s essential for us to get that first expertise below our belts.
“We have an average age of just 21, which, while very young, will stand us in good stead for the next qualifiers and the future. It’s important that we start accruing experience and begin the learning process now. But I’m also convinced that we can spring a surprise or two, even if it is just in our play and not necessarily in terms of points.” Indeed, it’s not simply the players who’re younger, however the staff itself, having solely been created in 2003.
That mentioned, what issues now’s the continual growth of ladies’s football in Luxembourg and making a strong participant base. This can also be a part of Santos’ remit as head of the ladies’s youth groups on the affiliation.
“Right now, what we really want to do is drive the women’s game forward and increase its presence in schools. We want to show kids that girls can and should play football. During one scouting exercise in Luxembourg, we discovered 70 talented girls, who now attend training once a week. The best will then progress to our U-12s and so on,” he explains, earlier than highlighting a few of issues nonetheless to be overcome.
“So far, we’ve established U-14, 15, 16 and 17 teams. However, we’re still lacking several age categories. For example, we don’t have sufficient players for a U-19 side. In some ages, the players are simply not there. That said, we’ve now taken the first steps, and I’m delighted that next year we’ll have additional categories, like U-12 and U-13.”
Also noteworthy is the truth that nearly half (48 per cent) of Luxembourg’s inhabitants are non-nationals, with round 170 totally different nationalities current within the nation. “These [foreign] players are coaching with us, however they don’t have Luxembourgish passports. We’ve registered for the qualifying part of the [UEFA] U-17 Championship in September, however we now have six or seven players who practice with us however who can not signify us,” Santos says.
Since the announcement of their participation within the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, curiosity within the nationwide staff has grown. In order to extend this additional, the affiliation is benefiting from social media. For instance, each ten days from September, a brand new participant will likely be launched on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok.
“I knew nothing about TikTok before, but now I’m up to speed on that too,” the affable Luxembourger says with a smile. “We want to show young girls that they can play football.”
And maybe finally make the transition into the senior staff which, in Santos’ opinion, is nothing if not passionate about the sport.
“We’ve got a generation for whom football is the first thing they think of in the morning and the last thing at night. At first I was a little taken aback and said to myself: ‘Okay, let’s see how this goes’. After our initial training sessions and conversations, I realised that they were just waiting for someone to take them by the hand and say: ‘we can train, we can achieve something’. I’ve trained with the senior team at -10°C. Rain or shine, they’re always there,” the 39-12 months-previous says enthusiastically.
“For example, last year we’d planned a friendly international against the Faroe Islands, only for it to be cancelled due to Covid. It was scheduled for a Sunday but when I told the players the match was off, they asked me if we could meet for training instead. That wouldn’t happen with the men, who’d jump at the free day. But if my players want to train, then that’s what we do. I’m not going to say no. That’s a difference I’ve noticed. The women here want to learn and progress, which means I head to training both contented and motivated,” he concludes.
For Luxembourg, the constructing blocks at the moment are in place and situations look good for the ladies’s sport there to actually develop.