For the first time since 2007, an international field football tournament is coming to Belgium. Between July 18 and July 30, about eight U19 girls' teams will compete for the highest podium on the European football stage. A first, because it is the first time ever that an international women's tournament has been assigned to our country. Leuven (Den Dreef), La Louvière (Tivoli Stadium) and Tubize (RBFA Academy Stadium and Leburton Stadium) are the host cities. On Tuesday 18 July, the ball at Den Dreef will start rolling after the opening ceremony.
Belgian women's football has been on the rise for several years, as witnessed by the unique performance of the Red Flames at the European Championship, the ever-increasing number of women's teams, and the historic milestone of 50,000 girls playing football. The allocation of this final tournament to the Royal Belgian Football Association by UEFA is another milestone in the steep rise of Belgian women's football.
“With this tournament we are taking extra steps towards the top of women's football. Not only do we receive the greatest European football talents during those weeks, our own U19 ladies can also show their footballing qualities to their own supporters. The European Championship is the perfect opportunity to further increase the popularity of our women's football and at the same time further profile Belgium internationally as a real football country, for women and men.” - Katrien Jans, manager of women's football at the RBFA
To win the hosting of the tournament, the RBFA had to substantiate its sky-high ambitions in women's football. For example, the football association unveiled the action plan “The World At Our Feet”. With the action plan, the RBFA wants to reach 80,000 girls and women playing football as soon as possible. It is also launching a new study 'Drop in, don't drop out', which examines why girls too often drop out after playing football for a few years. With these results, the football association will continue to work in the coming months to limit the dropout rate in women's football to a minimum.*
Three playing cities
On April 26, eight teams (Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Iceland, Austria and the Netherlands) will enter the draw which will be done in the RBFA Academy Stadium, for the two groups, each with four countries, and the final schedule of the European Championship. The matches will be played in Leuven, La Louvière and Tubize. The stadium Den Dreef in Leuven, the permanent base of the Red Flames with 9,811 places, will be the epicenter during the tournament. In addition to the opening match on Tuesday 18 July, the final will also be played there on Sunday 30 July. The RBFA spares no expense to open the European Championship in a festive way. For that first match in Leuven, for example, it organises a 'teenage festival' with internet phenomenon Celine Dept and some Red Flames.
Tubize, home of the football association, will have two stadiums, the RBFA Academy Stadium and Leburton Stadium, with capacities of 1,970 and 4,910 seats respectively. A few matches are also played in the Tivoli Stadium in La Louvière with 9,666 seats.
The awarding of the tournament is not only a huge boost for Belgian women's football. It is also an important recognition for the extensive professionalisation of the Royal Belgian Football Association. The last major field football tournament on Belgian territory dates back 16 years, when the European Championship U17 in 2007 took place in Tubize, Ronse, Verviers, Wezet, Eupen and Tournai. The young Devils, with the now former international players Eden Hazard and Christian Benteke, then lost in the semi-finals against Spain.
“The fact that for the first time in 16 years we can once again be a host country shows that as an organisation we have taken steps in recent years in the professionalisation of our federation. This final tournament should by no means be an end point. In the coming years we must continue to profile ourselves as a true football country where such large tournaments can take place.” - Katrien Jans, manager of women's football at the RBFA
The football association sees the matches in the middle of the summer holidays as the perfect time to mobilise a mass of football fans and to introduce them to the female football talent of tomorrow. The price per ticket is a maximum of 4 Euro, an access pass for all matches costs only 25 Euro. Members of fan club 1895 can even attend all matches (of the Belgian U19) for free. Tickets are available via tickets.rbfa.be. Those who are abroad during the European Championship or cannot physically travel to one of the host cities for other reasons can also follow the matches via a live stream on UEFA.com
*results of the study will be explained later