Nam host women’s soccer seminar

Namibia’s second place in the 2006 Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup for Women earlier this year, was instrumental in earning the country the right to host the FIFA Women’s Football Seminar. Eight FIFA delegates attended the seminar with notable ones being FIFA Head of Development Management Pascal Torres and FIFA’s Development Officer in charge of Southern Africa, Ashford Mamelodi.

Countries that sent delegates include Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.Ayo Omidiran, a FIFA Committee member from Nigeria, called on African countries to take up the initiative that FIFA has started in developing the women’s game. “FIFA has taken up a bold step, we as Africa must not sit on it. If we give any group of girls a football, they will play soccer but do we have the structures?” she questioned. According to her, Nigeria is the continent’s power-house in women soccer, “but how many of you heads of associations have bothered to ask the Nigerian football association how they have come to that point?”

More than five association Presidents from Zambia, Teddy Thulonga, Eddie Nyatanga (Zimbabwe), Lintle Phasumane (Lesotho),Mozambique’s Pedro Franscisco and Gopalooddoo Loomar (Mauritius) also attended the seminar. Ashford Mamelodi reinstated that associations should guard against misusing the 10 percent that associations are expected to spare for women football from the FIFA Goal Project funds. “I know for sure, not many associations have been living up to their expectations when it comes to using that 10 percent of the US$250 000, for women football development,” he said.

Mamelodi said his office will do a follow-up on all associations, after the workshop to “make sure that we all go beyond blaming the players. All resources needed for women football should from now onwards be committed to the cause of women football.FIFA has done its part, the challenge is with us.”

Mamelodi agreed with Namibia Football Association (NFA) Co-coordinator of Women’s Soccer Jackey Gertze that Namibia was granted the hosting rights for this historic event because the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) was very impressed in the way that Namibia has implemented the FIFA development program for women. Said Mamelodi, “Namibian football has been faced with a lot of challenges but who would believe that in the midst of those challenges, they still maintained their attention on women soccer, reaching the Cosafa finals and starting a women’s top flight league. A few countries would do that.”

The seminar discussed amongst other topics, the development of women’s soccer, the status of women’s soccer in CAF and COSAFA, how to run competitions and clubs as well as technical development and education. Communication, marketing and promotion will also form part of the discussions.

The seminar came barely weeks after the African Women’s Championship in Nigeria and at a time CAF being criticized for failing to organize an annual continental Championship for women club sides.

John Muinjo, Namibia Football Association President and an executive member of the CAF women’s football said an appropriate policy should be put in place by CAF after this seminar, to assist those who will be developing the sport. “For us to be powerful football playing countries in the world, we need to have strong football structures supported by proper policies. At the women’s championship, East and Southern Africa had few referees and match officials and that says a lot. We need to undergo a silent revolution like Namibia is doing,” he urged.

Part of the deliberations included a look into efforts by CAF to have a women’s playing league.CAF President Issa Hayatou has said it is difficult (to organise a Continental Championship for Women) because we don’t have more than four countries playing Women’s League at the moment. “Maybe in the next five or ten years time, if I have fifteen or twenty countries, we can organise a Champions League for women. Now, we have just four or five countries that are organising Women Competitions in their countries and that is not enough number for us to organise a continental Club Championship.”

Although it is the obligation of national associations to organise Women Championship, it is unrealistic because national associations hinted that they don’t have funds for such Championship and it seems CAF cannot undertake it. According to the seminar, national associations might not only have difficulties in organising their domestic Leagues due to lack of funds but also due to improper structures.

There was also huge mention of developing the womens game from the lower structures. Since CAF has taken a decision that no country would be granted the right to organise a major CAF Competition without also taking the junior Competitions, African countries urged each other to comply with international law by improving the under-17 and the under-20 sides. This decision was taken because since the beginning of the African Women Championship, only South Africa and Nigeria have played host. “If we had not taken such a decision, I am afraid maybe Nigeria and South Africa will get to a stage where they will also be tired of hosting. Everyone will now be in a position to host such games,” said FIFA’s Fasial Torres.

“As far as I am concerned, women football in Africa has improved. The Cameroonian women’s team which I saw at the beginning of the tournament showed some promise and even though they lost midway the tournament, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t make any effort,” observed former African female footballer of the year, Nigerian Mercy Akhide who also attended the seminar.

She further said,” I remain confident that even if other African Nations are yet to pull their weight, the performance of Nigerian teams at the World Cup is very encouraging. When their Under-20 team played at the World Championship in Moscow, it was only an error that made them lose at the last minute but they put up a remarkable performance. I believe that it is not impossible for the Super Falcons of Nigeria to win the World Cup trophy in some years to come. It is left for other countries to work hard to build their teams to be able to challenge the monotony of Nigeria and make it interesting. When other countries start winning the trophy too, it will get even more interesting but for now, I must say that I am impressed with the level of development.”

Nigeria and Ghana will represent Africa at the Women World Cup.

December 2006
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