A December 10 announcement from the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee has granted the International Federation of American Football with provisional IOC recognition. With a governing body of 64 nations on six continents, this is a landmark moment for the game and the advancement of women’s football.
The IOC Sports Director, Christophe Dubi, noted how the IFAF has worked towards developing youth appeal while helping the sport grow around the world. Despite the recognition, the next steps will determine how the sport is contested.
Of note, the IFAF is responsible for tackle, flag and beach volleyball. While the sport will likely be featured as a demonstration sport before it becomes a medal sport, it is hard to determine what kind of football shall be contested. As injuries are a significant factor of tackle football, the concept of flag football may seem more practical.
While it is unsure if the sport shall be contested in the Winter or Summer Games, the thought of it being a demonstration sport by the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games is very real. With it is the opportunity for female football players to compete on one of the biggest sporting stages in the world.
Just like the inclusion of women’s ice hockey at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, it is exciting to see women’s football (whether it be tackle or flag) proudly follow. The only point of concern is how competitive the various nations might be. Since women’s hockey has been part of the Winter Games, Canada has competed in every gold medal game, while the United States have played for the gold three out of four times.
The last two IFAF Women’s World (tackle football) championships featured Canada and the United States in the gold medal game. The thought of these two nations dominating in football for multiple generations is a strong possibility. Giving equal consideration to men’s football and the strong presence of the United States, a lack of parity may hinder the sport.
Although there are many more obstacles to overcome before medals are put around the necks of female football players, its inclusion is a remarkable milestone worth celebrating. The hard work of the pioneers of women’s football over the last decade is reaching fruition and with it, motivation and a renewed sense of energy to keep breaking barriers and inspiring the next generation of women to grace the gridiron.