Football NSW’s Women’s & Girl’s Development Manager Jo Fernandes is ready to embark on a work trip of a lifetime after the well-travelled football administrator was appointed as a General Coordinator for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, taking place in Russia from June.
Within the role, Fernandes will play a central role in the successful delivery of several key FIFA World Cup matches taking place in Kaliningrad this summer, after being appointed as one of the first women, alongside Priscilla Salazar-Janssens, to be called upon as a General Coordinator for the FIFA World Cup.
General Coordinators play a vital role in supporting teams and ensuring stadia and venues run smoothly on matchdays. Key tasks and areas that fall under the responsibility of a General Coordinator can include team arrangements, stadium and training field preparation, match day operations, media and spectator services and security.
“It’s not too easy to explain, but essentially a GC (General Coordinator) is responsible for overseeing many key technical and operational areas, alongside our counterparts from the local organising committee (LOC),” explained Fernandes.
“GC’s are ultimately responsible for everything that happens at a venue, before, during and after a match.”
“We have the privilege and significant responsibility of ensuring the successful delivery of matches in our venue, in close cooperation with the LOC and FIFA colleagues.”
The appointment was a welcome surprise for Fernandes who has been a leading advocate for female football in Australia for a number of years.
“It sure was a wonderful surprise and an honour to be asked to be part of the FIFA World Cup this summer.
“Football NSW was completely supportive of my appointment and I cannot wait to get the ball rolling when I fly off on June 2nd for Russia.”
Football NSW CEO Stuart Hodge said the organisation was thrilled to see Fernandes given this opportunity.
“Jo is a highly-respected football administrator and deserves the opportunity to be a General Coordinator at the FIFA World Cup,” said Hodge.
“Football NSW is extremely proud that one of its team is going to play an important role in the delivery of the FIFA World Cup. We are hopeful that this appointment will inspire more women and girls in Australia to get involved in the administration of football.”
Fernandes has also held several General Coordinator roles previously, with her first appointment in 2008 for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile, which she remembers fondly.
“I was based in Santiago, which hosted the final.
“The final was a great occasion – a bit nerve-wracking being a GC for the first time at such a big event – but an experience I’ll never forget.”
Other General Coordinator roles soon followed.
Fernandes was appointed as GC for the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan in 2012, the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica in 2014, the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015 – which included the successful delivery of the final in Vancouver – and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.
Most recently was the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India in 2017, where she was the first female GC appointed to the event and oversaw match day operations of the final in Kolkata.
Fernandes will call Kaliningrad home from June 2nd onwards where she will be hosting four group stage matches; Croatia v Nigeria, Serbia v Switzerland, Spain v Morocco and England v Belgium.
The matches will include the likes of Croatian sensation Luka Modric, Nigerian ace John Obi Mikel, Serbian veteran Branislav Ivanovic, Swiss ace Granit Xhaka, Spanish maestro Andres Iniesta, Moroccan superstar Medhi Benatia, English frontman Harry Kane and Belgium supremo Eden Hazard to name a few.
Asked whether she will be overawed by the presence of some of these world football stars, Fernandes stated to Football NSW.
“Not at all to tell you the truth.
“In GC mode on match day we are extremely busy with the match organisation, I don’t really register if an individual player is a superstar.
“The aim is to provide the most ideal preparation environment for all of the teams in our venue, so they don’t have to think about anything other than giving their best performance in the match.
“I believe my lengthy background as a Team Manager for the Matildas has helped me to appreciate a match day from a player and team perspective. I’ve been on the other side of those change room doors.”
Fernandes will have some close support after her work in Russia as her family will be there after the conclusion of her General Coordinator duties to take in the remaining matches of the FIFA World Cup.
“When the Kaliningrad venue closes, my family will join me and we will stay on for a couple of weeks in Russia just to be football fans!
“GC work is very intense so it will be nice to wind down a bit afterwards with the family.”
Asked what it was that she was looking forward to the most, Fernandes stated that it was getting stuck right into it, the Australian way, but getting into tournament mode above everything else.
“Just getting over there and getting going.
“I’m receiving regular updates from my colleagues in Kaliningrad, and I can’t wait to get there and get into tournament mode.
“Yes, it is long hours and challenging work, but it is so rewarding.
“The venue team become like a second family as we all work extremely hard together to put on the best event possible.
“So, it would be the teamwork that is what I’m looking forward to the most.”