What you need to know:
- What the club licensing manager did was to create an inclusivity plan without any plan for inclusivity
- There are deep financial challenges within women’s football circles across the continent but I dare say, better the way in which they are currently constituted
- Debates about inclusivity and equality in sport are not a chance for political point-scoring
There was a suggestion a few weeks ago by Caf Club Licensing Senior Manager Muhammad Sidat that clubs competing in Caf Champions League must have a female team starting from 2022/23 season.
It was the kind of suggestion that was bound to be met with applause, but only until the audience starts thinking about the practicality of it all. When South African mogul Patrice Motsepe was elected president of the Confederation of African Football in March this year, he declared that the inclusion of women in the African game will be one of his top priorities.
Well, if last month’s announcement was his first proposal, it can hardly be said to have been worth the wait. As one of my Twitter followers reacted to the news, “If the ‘big reveal’ after months of thinking is this, then some people want sacking.”
While the plan sounds reasonable, women’s teams are likely to suffer most under the new plan. There are deep financial challenges within women’s football circles across the continent but I dare say, better the way in which they are currently constituted.
I mean, KWPL champions Vihiga Queens are better off, financially, than Vihiga United, who are no longer supported by the Vihiga county government. Thika Queens are many times better off than Thika United. Kisumu AllStarlets better off than Kisumu AllStars. Only Ulinzi Stars can be said to be at par with Ulinzi Starlets, for obvious reasons.
For this, asking male teams such as perennial beggars Gor Mahia to establish and support female outfits is just putting unnecessary pressure on the clubs. If paying the men players and honouring fixtures are nightmares in this part of the world, what about establishing and supporting a female team? Remember, most local premier league teams have youth sides, which are so severely neglected that they are no longer considered part of the main team. Perhaps it is better that way.
Moreover, what will guide the level of dependence between male and female sides of the same team? In the absence of such guidelines, the different teams are likely to receive varying levels of support from their “parent” clubs, which is another recipe for high inequality, not equality, which runs at across purposes with the spirit of the plan, which is to bring more inclusivity.
Of course the plan is realistic, even affordable, but only with the right long-term funding plan. What the club licensing manager did was to create an inclusivity plan without any plan for inclusivity. And such roadside declarations, that are only meant to whip up emotions, constitute a great part of the leadership problem in the continent.
Debates about inclusivity and equality in sport are not a chance for political point-scoring. Their substance is real people’s careers – careers that have been limited by improper funding and poor planning. With this toothless plan, one can hardly hold their breath for a better tomorrow.
Meanwhile, in the middle of a women’s football game at the Tokyo Olympics, I received a text message from a senior colleague that read, “Women's soccer is providing some great games at Tokyo '20. But something puzzles me: When the players use their thorax to control the ball, why do the commentators say 'chested' instead of 'breasted'?