The Chairperson of the CAF Organizing Committee for Women’s Football explains the reasons of 2020 Women’s AFCON cancellation in a long interview. She also speaks about the Women’s Champions League which will start in 2021.
What are the reasons of the cancellation of 2020 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations?
Women’s football means a lot to CAF. We take pride (northerly) notably in the fact we have women’s football in our calendar but also the fact that we are actually facing these challenges and we are making great strive to change the narrative.
For the 2020 Women’s AFCON, there were circumstances beyond our control which made it difficult for CAF to organise it. Don’t get me wrong here, all options are explored but to no avail.
Let’s take the three main areas and reasons why we didn’t have an option but to cancel it
Firstly, the withdrawal of Congo which meant we needed to find for a new host. The bid was reopened and we see bids from Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. However, both bids lacked the most important support documents, that documents being electoral support from their respective governments. If you can’t get electoral support from your government to host a competition it becomes quite complex and problematic in the long run because we can not organise a competition without the support or guarantee from the host country that comes from the government.
The second point is the outbreak of the Covid-19 which leads to the suspension of all football activities around the continent and indeed in the rest of the world. So due to that fact, the qualifiers initially scheduled for April 2020 have to be postponed indefinitely. With the Women’s AFCON being a senior national team competition, we can only schedule matches based on the FIFA calendar dates, which were also affected by the Covid-19. So again, due to the Covid-19, the women’s calendar was revised and left with two windows opportunities being in September and October for the qualifiers.
Again, we have the closure of borders across continent and so it was very unlikely that we will be able to honour these matches within these two window opportunities taking into consideration the traveling restrictions within the continent.
We have the qualifiers for the FIFA U-17 WWC and the FIFA U-20 which have to be completed this year. As you can see, it is not a case of not being able to meet all the expectations of people or we just decided to make an easy way out to cancel the 2020 Women’s AFCON because it is women’s football… but it is because of some obvious serious reasons and circumstances totally beyond our control.
As I listed down to you, there were options that we went over and over again to see how best to accommodate, and we just couldn’t.
The news chocked many women’s football fans…
I can assure you that I understand how disappointing it would be, but you know as much as this comes as choking or disappointing news and again it is based on the current global situation. It has nothing to do with another agenda other than the fact we simply cannot hold the competitions during the abnormal times that we have now. CAF has even allocated a substantial amount to support the host countries to organise a final tournament but no country is being full coming yet. Why is that? Is it because of Covid-19 which is destructing every single economy in the world?
We can’t still impose a competition on a country to host if they are not ready. It is going to be a collective decision and the competition is got to be organised under and within conducive circumstances. We simply don’t have that as of this moment as we speak. No country is operating on the normal circumstances. These are very abnormal times. When we do host these competitions, the current competition is going to be far better than the last competition. That’s the whole point, to have a better competition that the last one, you want to get one out better than the other. Ghana was a hugely successful competition so why host something that is probably going to be limited or second best or really not good at all, only to be criticised as to why did you go ahead with it, knowing very funny well that there were challenges. And that what would have happened. It is best we still leave it as it is. We still monitor and plan these ahead instead of just sitting down and doing nothing waiting normal times to come. We are planning, at the same time we have to look for the host for 2022 edition of Women’s AFCON which will also serve as qualifiers for the 2023 FIFA WWC. As well as the inaugural Women’s Champions League. Again, I want to reemphasise even if the decision may not be good news but of course it gives us time to reflect and to plan for the future. But you know there is good news and the good news is women’s football in Africa will bounce back in style. It is going to get even better and can only get better. We’ve got Covid-19, but it doesn’t mean that we are going to funk the abnormal future. Certain challenges in life are there to string the new and to make you get better especially when you are able to rise from these situations, and that is exactly what is happening with women’s football during this Covid-19 time.
About the women’s champions League
Don’t forget We got two symposiums in CAF and we got the women’s symposium and time again there were this big cry for women’s CL to start. Everybody wanted to see more of women’s football being played, they wanted to give the girls more exposure and more experience and this was always a welcoming idea.
We didn’t have the right platform then but now we do, so it has always been on the cards and now we are ready even though these are strange times. But this is the time, it is now and So it will not be replacing the women’s AFCON. At the domestic league, a lot more games, lot of participations will give to all their best players and it is going to be really exciting time. Look at all the female coaches, look at the member associations with rather having a license coaching we got CBA license coach, female instructors, it gives the women a chance to coaches and referees to apply their knowledge and training, to get them better and raise the game.
Strategies to push the national leagues…
With the women’s CL, MA will be compelled to improve the level of their domestic leagues in order to be eligible to participate. There is no to worries about that, they have to up their game and they will have to increase their participation. CAF is giving a financial support to the MAs during the Covid-19 and FIFA as you are all aware quite recently just announced 500 000USD for women’s football in MAs. And it is a very long way we are helping the domestic women’s leagues.
There is a recent survey which confirms that over 30 MA have women’s league and this is a very good start to build on, 30 associations working under the vibrating women’s league in their countries, the remaining which is less and half they will also follow suit. And CAF and FIFA are ever ready to support MA in the development of women’s football. It is a great time for us, strange and abnormalize, but we should not forget that women’s football is a very normal thing and we will not allow Covid-19 or abnormal times during this Covid-19 to erode the normality of things, we are going to raise our game, and we are going to change our narrative as women in football, as women in the game, as women’s administrators clerks, and now it is time to really look ahead, look forward and all come on board participating to push our women’s game in the African continent;