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Fani Doiranli: "I want to improve the lives of footballers in Greece"

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Fani Doiranli

Fani Doiranli has been playing for FC PAOK Thessaloniki of the Greek A Division since 2014. Earlier this year, she became the first woman to cast her ballot at a Greek professional footballers’ association (PSAPP) election.

This year marks my ninth playing football and, as much as I love it, my time has made me very aware of the struggles and needs of the women’s game in Greece. Our league and players don’t command the same respect or momentum that is seen abroad, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before we get there.

We were pleasantly surprised at the efforts of the PSAPP over the past two years, whose assistance helped us exert our rights to safely return to training and matches during the COVID-19 period. The union also took an important step by modifying its statutes to allow women to become members of the PSAPP, and therefore the right to vote on matters within the organisation.

I took advantage of the opportunity straight away, and so the first women’s vote at the general assembly was cast in favour of the first two female active board members – a rather fitting way to express my gratitude!

I am relishing the prospect of playing an active part in the union, especially in their efforts to develop and improve conditions for female footballers in Greece, because although steps have indeed been taken, they are relatively small in comparison to the long journey we have ahead.

Greek football structures need to adapt in a way that accepts and supports women’s football, domestically at first and then, as it grows, expanding that interest into European and global championships.

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PSAPP president Giorgos Bantis and Fani Doiranli

In the first instance more attention needs to be paid to the conditions of the game, such as player contracts, quality of pitches, and financial investment. The current decision to split the championship into north and south groupings might cut costs, but it also massively diminishes the competition, quality, and public interest – and therefore any chance we have for growth.

Secondly, we have to exert pressure upon all Greek teams to comply with UEFA rules, which stipulate that every men's professional club that wishes to compete in European competition must also field a women's squad. This would introduce more teams, fans, and competition for the women’s game, and from that environment we can cultivate our own opportunities to thrive.

Unfortunately, the women’s league is regarded as amateur to semi-professional, which means the majority of players have to rely on jobs outside of football to support them. We put the same hours in as full-time players, have the same responsibilities, and the same capacity to play at a professional level – yet we are earning the income of amateur athletes.

I understand that the goal I have in mind for women’s football in Greece to reach the height that it has in other European cultures isn’t one that can be achieved overnight – but that’s okay, because I’m fully committed to playing the long game.

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Fani Doiranli (right) in action with PAOK

On top of my degree in accounting and finance, I am expanding my further education with an online Sports Management program from UCN University. I think this is a fantastic opportunity to merge my studies in business with my passion for sports, and hopefully it will open up career options within the business side of football in the coming years.

This way, even when I cease to be a player, I can still work to elevate the status of women's football in Greece – utilising both my qualifications and playing experience.

Maintaining a full-time football career along with a second job and further education is not easy, but the online arrangement is created with active athletes in mind, so the programme schedule is pretty flexible. Education is a vital preparation for life after football and I would encourage all players to develop their interests outside of the game.

I hope that this pursuit will help me bring further value as a member of PSAPP because I didn’t just join to be part of something; I want to interact effectively with other members and actively improve the lives of footballers in Greece.

When I cast my first vote I did so in the hope of making a difference and, now that I can see change on the horizon, I intend to be an active member of PSAPP. I am hopeful that together we can accomplish significant improvements for women in football, and work to guarantee the equality and privileges that they have been excluded from for far too long.

Women’s football in Greece is not where it should be, but I am dedicated to raise our level to the elite standard that it is capable of – both on the pitch and off.