Women’s football will prosper with more regional tournaments

Harambee Starlets forward Esse Akida (left) puts pen to paper to a two-year deal at Turkish giants Besiktas on February 17, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool | Besiktas FC

What you need to know:

  • Regional competitions provide a perfect avenue for women’s teams to regularly test their strengths and they should be strengthened.
  • Will lazy federation chiefs and their supporters continue peddling the lie that sending women’s teams to regional competitions is too expensive, then pretend to be surprised when little known nations like the Comoros come and upend the hierarchy?

As I was ushering in the New Year, I found myself in the middle of an interesting discussion about what kind of a year 2020 was in terms of levels of engagement of African women’s national teams.

Interesting because most participants of the discussion, who were mostly journalists from various African countries who cover football, thought that 2020, with all its challenges, was actually a great year for the women’s game in the continent.

After the much awaited Africa Women’s Cup of Nations was cancelled due to Covid-19, it was hard for me to believe that anyone could find kind things to say about women’s football in 2020.

But by the end of the conversation, I had dropped my pessimism. And as I went to bed later that night, an interesting revelation came upon me – Africa’s over reliance on the Awcon is both dangerous and unhealthy.

Despite the cancellation of the continental competition, we had six regional tournaments organised in different countries.

The Cosafa tournament was held in November in South Africa, the Unaf (Union of North Africa Football Associations) tournament was revived after more than a decade and hosted by Tunisia in February, and the maiden Uniffac (Union of Football Federations of Central Africa) tournament was staged in Equatorial Guinea.

I am sad to report that there wasn’t much to write home about from east Africa, as the Cecafa tournament was held in late 2018 to become the last engagement for women’s teams in this region.

Federations that relied only on the Awcon, such as FKF, ended up staying idle throughout the year.

The tournaments mentioned above brought hundreds of passionate girl footballers together in a way that the 12-team Awcon, even if you add its qualifiers, never would have managed.

It is through these tournaments that we identified FA presidents who are serious about growing the women’s game, such as the Moroccan and South Sudanese FAs, and those that are simply bystanders.

It is through those tournaments that we learnt that the dominance of the likes of Nigeria and Ghana is under serious threat, and noticed that middle strength teams such as Zambia are growing in ambition.

The Cosafa region’s  strategy and dedication in matters women’s football are exemplary.

What our African female footballers need is more regional tournaments.

Regional competitions provide a perfect avenue for women’s teams to regularly test their strengths and they should be strengthened.

Will lazy federation chiefs and their supporters continue peddling the lie that sending women’s teams to regional competitions is too expensive, then pretend to be surprised when little known nations like the Comoros come and upend the hierarchy?

colilo@ke.nationmedia.com


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