I’m of the opinion that an African country can win a women’s world cup but the only way they going to achieve this is with more assistance and support from the Confederation of African Football, the CAF, which rightfully must advance women’s football.
Women’s football in Africa is being given a raw deal with only the crumbs of the continent’s massive football budget being signed off for women in football. CAF must step up the game and demand advances to women’s participation in football, across the continent. It’s an injustice to humanity when sportswomen are discriminated against in resource and budget allocation. It’s a worse atrocity when talented, emerging players have no professional league in their country to pursue life as professional women footballers, as do their male counterparts.
Africa was represented at the 2015 women’s football world cup in Canada by Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast. Much was expected of African champions, Nigeria. The country found themselves drawn in the ‘group of death’ with Australia, USA and Sweden and never made it past the group stages.
2015 Women’s Football World Cup debutants got mixed results with Ivory Coast losing 10-nil to Germany in their opening match and never recovering thereafter. For first time performers, I thought Cameroon was very impressive; their performance in the last 16 of the competitive tournament proved the team’s prowess mixed with inexperience.
So what now for African women’s football? The three teams are back in Africa whilst the quarterfinals continue with no African representative. African women’s football will now prepare for the Rio Olympics qualifiers and the 2015 All African Games to be held in Congo in September.
As the controlling body for football on the African continent, CAF must prioritise women’s football. Girls and women’s participation is growing furiously and competitions must be increased to give the clubs and teams the best opportunities to participate and grow their football skills.
As African women’s football has shown in the Under 20 and Under 17 Women’s World Cups held over the past few years, African countries, especially Ghana and Nigeria, have excelled in these elite events and have medalled when competing with the world’s best in their age groups.
CAF must introduce a continental club competition featuring all national league winners. An African knockout championship for cup winners must also be looked at. Both these competitions will give impetus to clubs to perform regionally and win national titles to qualify to perform in Africa’s prestige women’s football events.
As Nigeria and Cameroon demonstrated at this year’s women’s football world cup, Africa countries are not far behind the top European, North American and Asian playing countries. Superbly talented young players like Nigeria’s Asisat Ashaolo spotlight Africa’s emerging women’s football talent. But Africa’s talented women footballers have to play football knowing they must get a contract to play out of Africa if they want to play professionally. When are professional leagues for women footballers going to take off in some African countries? By now Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa should have initiated women’s pro leagues.
Africa’s women’s national teams play on an ad hoc basis, as when qualifiers are coming up. There are not many qualifiers for Africa’s few continental championships. Players need to be operating competitively all year with small breaks in between. Women’s football is growing fast and development of the game from grassroots to international level is expanding around the world.
CAF has done much to improve and develop men’s and boys’ participation in league football and international matches. So why not for women? CAF cannot be allowed to discard and disregard women in football when the global game is played by both genders.
The struggle within CAF for women’s football to be prioritized, given much bigger budgets and expanded with more resource and people management is very real. CAF’s reluctance to advance women’s football, beyond its present state, impacts on emerging girl footballers, with them maybe never knowing their full talent and capabilities. This is an in justice to Africa’s girls and women in sport!
(An earlier version of this appeared on Cheryl’s blog. Thanks for the collaboration.)
(Photo Credit: http://gsport.co.za)