Ellen Fokkema, 19, the first adult woman in men’s football competition
Ellen Fokkema is the first adult woman that will play in a men's football competition in the Netherlands. Dutch football association KNVB and VV Foarut on Tuesday announced that they have agreed to give the 19-year-old woman dispensation to play for the first men's team. With this experiment, the KNVB wants to evaluate whether there is a good basis for allowing women and men to play mixed football in category A, and to permanently amend the regulations.
Under KNVB regulations, boys and girls can play mixed football from the youngest teams to under 19, but then women have to play in the B category with men or on a women's team. Now Fokkema will play for VV Foarut's first team in category A.
Fokkema is delighted. "It is fantastic that I can continue to play with this team," she said. "I've been playing with these guys since I was five and I was sorry that I wouldn't be able to play with them in a team next year. The KNVB always advised me to play with the boys for as long a possible, so why shouldn't it be possible? It is quite a challenge, but that only excites me more. I asked the club if something was possible and together we submitted the request to the KNVB."
The rest of the first team was also enthusiastic that Fokkema can continue playing with them, she said. "I dare not say how this will go, but I am very happy anyway that I can participate in this experiment."
According to Art Langeler, director of football development at the KNVB, the football association receives at least one request per year form an association asking that a woman can play football in their first men's team. "In my opinion it is strange that girls at all levels can play mixed football, but as soon as boys move from under 10 to category A of men, they have to play football without the woman on their team," he said. "The KNVB stands for diversity and equality and we believe there should be room for everyone in every way in football."
He added that this is a nice sporting challenge for Fokkema, and the KNVB does not want to stand in the way of that.
"That is why we start this experiment," Langeler said. "Experience will tell if and how it works. We will monitor how things go in close consultation with the club. Based on that, we could apply a change of regulation."