FIFA ExCo Candidate: MOYA DODD

With the FIFA Congress taking place next month, where the first ever female rep will be selected for the Executive Committee, we spoke to AFC nominee Moya Dodd. Oh and Happy ANZAC Day to a proud Aussie!

The first-ever election for a female representative on the FIFA Executive Committe (ExCo) is due to take place at next month’s FIFA Congress in Mauritius, with interim post-holder Lydia Nsekera (Burundi Football Association President) among four highly experienced candidates vying for the position. Also up for the position are: CONCACAF nominee Sonia Bien-Aime (General Secretary at the Turks & Caicos Islands Football Association (TCIFA); New Zealander Paula Kearns, a keen footballer who has been involved at nearly every level of the game – as a player, a coach, an occasional referee and an administrator (including as acting CEO of New Zealand (NZF);  and, since 2008, she has been the women’s representative on the NZF executive board; and the AFC’s candidate Moya Dodd

Moya is a former Australian national team player, lawyer, and passionate advocate for football. Moya joined Football Federation Australia’s ExCo in 2007, and has since served on its A-League committee for the men’s pro league, the women’s committee, and the football development committee. In 2009, she was the first woman elected to the Asian Football Confederation, serving as Vice-President, chair of its women’s committee, and deputy chair of its legal committee. She is also a member of FIFA’s legal committee. In combination with her work in football, she is a partner in one of Australia’s premier law firms, Gilbert+Tobin, specialising in telecommunications and media, a culmination of her 20-year career in law and business with some of the region’s leading telecommunications and media firms.

Moya, presenting 2012 AFC Player of the Year Aya Miyama with her award (Action Images)

She took some time to answer some of our questions about her passion for the game and for the future:

SK: When you set out playing a game you loved, as a girl, did you ever envisage it taking you this far in life?

MD: Not at all… I had absolutely no idea where the game would take me. Actually, I still don’t!

That is just one of the amazing things about football. It strikes such deep connections with people that you can find yourself having a deep and meaningful conversation with someone you have just met and have little else in common with by way of cultural background.

In women’s football I find the connections are especially strong.  Around the world, everyone is facing the same challenges – access, resourcing, recognition, winning over football’s decision-makers, and becoming decision-makers.  This list holds true in top-ten countries and in places where women’s football is still banned.  And there is a real generosity to help each other out. So many people – men and women – in women’s football have been incredibly generous in helping and encouraging me to work towards a better world. It’s a great ‘family’ to belong to.

SK: Are you envious of the opportunities young Matildas and indeed girls around the world have to play & develop in the game?

MD: Of course!  Who wouldn’t want to lose 30 years and have the opportunities of today? But I’m also delighted.  How fantastic to be 17 years old now, to have the chance to be coached by the best, and play in a packed stadium in a World Cup…

SK: But there is still much work to do. What do you feel are the main/most urgent priorities for you or your AFC/FIFA colleagues to address?

MD: I think the priorities vary around the world.

In some places, just being allowed to play and to embark on a football journey is the first challenge.  For example, I keep in touch with a courageous woman in Saudi Arabia who organises a private club for women’s football.  I hope that one day her group can be embraced by the federation and women’s football can be recognised there.  It’s a brave journey for everyone because there are very significant cultural barriers that need to be understood and addressed.

At the other end of the scale, I am very keen to see professional opportunities at the elite level, including professional club leagues.  We have great international competitions like the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but many of the players are only semi-professional or even amateur. How much better would they be if they could give up their day jobs and concentrate on football full-time? This is the “glass ceiling” of the football world. I think we need to take a focussed look at the challenge of professional national leagues and what can be done to help bring them about.  That way, every girl can dream of a career in playing football – just as every boy can – no matter what country they come from, or where their national team is ranked.

Finally, I think having more women in the governance of football is really important, everywhere.  AFC created four ExCo positions for women.  FIFA has created one position, and will ask Congress to approve another two. Getting women involved in decision-making roles is critical, whether at ExCo, in management, in media or as coaches.  Football is a better game with women involved.

SK: Is being a ‘suit’ (as many of us heathens view it, ha ha) ‘fun’?

MD: Just being in football is fun!

But being in a suit is less fun than being on the field or in a tracksuit.  There is still nothing better than the feeling of playing to your potential.  I still play in an over-35s competition, but I’m getting worse and worse every year!

SK: What’s the biggest barrier you have experienced or witnessed to women progressing in the game?

MD: That’s a difficult question.  I think in the end it is about belief.  People have grown up with the idea that women somehow don’t really belong in football – just because that is what they are used to seeing.  Persuading the game’s decision-makers to really believe that women and girls belong in football and will contribute – just as much as the men and the boys – is the key to unlocking the game for football’s “other half”.

That’s why it is so important that women in football (and many men who are passionate advocates of women in football) to be visible and active contributors.  I’m especially inspired by those who have been international players and have gone on to be top-level coaches e.g. April Heinrichs, Silvia Neid, Steffi Jones, Sun Wen, Jessie Fan, Hesterine de Reus, Vera Pauw, Carolina Morace, Hope Powell, Jitka Klimkova, Pia Sundhage … it’s a long and impressive list.  There are also outstanding women like Karen Espelund and Kelly Simmons who are great contributors to the administration of the game, across both men’s and women’s football. 

These women inspire others, every day. And every day we grow in numbers. So I’m very optimistic, and very keen to make a difference at the highest level of the game in FIFA, if I get the chance.

Every institution and society is better, fairer and richer if women can fully participate.  The world’s greatest game deserves the best, and I really believe that women can help make it better.

Thanks Moya – pretty inspirational, eh?

Also thanks goes to Ann Odong @thewomensgame. Give them a follow!

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