Dutch FA to permit a woman to join men’s first team under new pilot scheme

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The Dutch football association has given the green light to allow a female footballer to play in a senior men’s team as part of a landmark pilot scheme.

Ellen Fokkema becomes the first participant of the new development

Ellen Fokkema, 19, has been granted dispensation by KNVB to play for fourth-division amateur outfit VV Foarut, the local club in the village of Menaam, which has a population of fewer than 3,000 people in the coming season. 

Ellen Fokkema

Girls are permitted to play mixed football up to the under-19 level in the Netherlands. Thereafter, they must either play category B men’s football or join a women’s team. 

This new trial gives Fokkema the chance to prove her worth at a senior level.

Speaking of the decision to allow her to play for VV Foarut, Fokkema said: “I was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to play with them in a team next year.

“From the KNVB I was always advised to continue playing with the boys for as long as possible, so why shouldn’t it be possible?

“It is quite a challenge, but that only excites me more. I dare not say how it will go, but I am very happy anyway that I can participate in this pilot.”

KNVB will monitor Fokkema’s progress with interest, hinting that it could lead to a major change in the rules in the Dutch game.

“Every year there is a request from an association to allow a woman to play football in their first men’s team,” added Art Langeler, the Dutch FA’s director of football development.

“In my opinion, it is special that girls at all levels are allowed to play mixed football, but as soon as boys from the under-19 move to category A of men they have to continue playing football without the women in their team.

“The KNVB stands for diversity and equality. We believe that there should be space for everyone in football in every way. Moreover, in these cases, there is a nice sporting challenge that we do not want to block.

“That’s why we’re starting this pilot. The experience will learn if and how it works. We will be working closely with the club to monitor how it is going. On that basis, we could apply a change in the rules.”

Women’s football was first recognized in the Netherlands in 1971 while mixed football was introduced in 1986.