by Kieran Thievam
NEW FIFA president Gianni Infantino thinks there’s a lot that needs to be done to promote women’s football, according to England legend Kelly Smith.
Smith was in Zurich last week as part of an impromptu ‘friendly match’ that new president Infantino organised at short notice following his election. It also featured past pros from the men’s game, including Paolo Maldini, Luis Figo and former Real Madrid and Bolton defender Fernando Hierro.
The current Arsenal Ladies player and assistant coach was invited to take part to represent women’s football.
And, with so many women’s international matches taking place at present, she was just one of three female players in attendance.
She said: “I received a call on Saturday through a FIFA contact, who said the president wanted me to come and play in a match with FIFA staff and former players.
“It was all last-minute, but it was a great occasion and an honour to go and represent women’s football, especially with so many players being away on international duty.
“I think they probably scraped the barrel with me!”
With more than 100 caps for England and the honour of being record scorer for her country, it can hardly be described as scraping the barrel…
Germans Melanie Leupolz (Bayern Munich) and Julia Simic (Wolfsburg) joined Smith as the only women’s representatives in the match, but the opportunity to be part of an event that came less than 72 hours after Infantino was elected is not something the 37-year-old is taking for granted.
While she was unable to have an in-depth conversation with Sepp Blatter’s replacement, her day in Zurich did allow her to at least exchange a few words.
She said: “We asked him what his plans were for moving the women’s game forward.
“He just smiled and said there is a lot to do to promote women’s football.
“He said he’s up for it and it’s a big challenge. I think we’ll see a lot of changes because he seems very much for women’s football.
“We’ll just have to wait and see.”
As for Smith, she’s looking ahead to the upcoming FA Women’s Super League season after finally agreeing a new contract with Arsenal Ladies to continue playing for another year.
She said: “I love this club and they made me feel wanted.
“I couldn’t really say no to be honest.”
*This article was originally published in The FLP’s Women’s Football Weekly pull-out on 6 March 2016.