Huge boost for women’s foot­ball

African Independent - - SPORT - THOMAS KWENAITE

TWO COUN­TRIES at the op­po­site ends of the con­ti­nent have taken gi­ant strides in the pro­mo­tion of women’s foot­ball with the es­tab­lish­ment of proper struc­tures to de­velop a game ne­glected across Africa.

Sierra Leone ac­knowl­edge they lack proper struc­tures to pro­mote women’s foot­ball but will none­the­less pro­ceed with a 12-team pro­fes­sional league in the West African coun­try.

South African Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (Safa) pres­i­dent Danny Jordaan re­vealed his or­gan­i­sa­tion had fi­nalised lo­gis­tics for the es­tab­lish­ment of a na­tional pro­fes­sional set-up of 12 teams.

“We lack the right struc­tures at the mo­ment with no proper cal­en­dar and we sadly can­not at­tract spon­sors,” said Fo­day Tu­ray, chair­man of the Sierra Leone Western Area Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion.

Tu­ray dou­bles as an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber of the Sierra Leone Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (SLFA) but de­spite their chal­lenges, and backed by FA pres­i­dent Isha Jo­hansen, they’re forg­ing ahead to ful­fil their man­date of de­vel­op­ing women’s foot­ball.

“At the mo­ment we can only sus­tain the league and save the women’s game from a to­tal col­lapse. We are, how­ever, con­fi­dent that some­where along the line, a sym­pa­thetic cor­po­rate will come along and in­vest in what we are try­ing to achieve.”

To their credit and de­spite real so­cial and eco­nom­i­cal chal­lenges, Sierra Leone is among 19 African coun­tries en­tered for the 2018 Un­der-20 World Cup in France.

En­cour­aged by the visit of Brazil­ian star Vieira da Silva, bet­ter known as five-time Fifa Women’s Player of the Year Marta, who is a good­will am­bas­sador for the United Na­tions De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme (UNDP), Sierra Leone are dream­ing of qual­i­fy­ing for France when they host Libya in a fort­night.

Jordaan, mean­while, said that nine Safa pro­vin­cial win­ners as well as Bloem­fontein Celtic and Mamelodi Sun­downs Ladies teams and the win­ners of the uni­ver­si­ties tour­na­ment would form the in­au­gu­ral na­tional women’s league.

“Af­ter a work­shop in Dur­ban, we reached a de­ci­sion that we must form a na­tional league for women’s foot­ball be­cause when Banyana plays, the play­ers are se­lected from the Sa­sol squad, which is the pro­vin­cial squad,” Jordaan said.

“All na­tional teams are se­lected from the na­tional league, but in the case of women’s foot­ball, we have pro­vin­cial leagues, no na­tional league, na­tional team and in­ter­na­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

“There­fore, that gap, re­vealed by (for­mer Banyana coach) Vera Pauw, was that we have to ad­dress that gap be­cause when we last went to the Olympics, I think they were in camp for four months.

“She ex­plained that she needed that time to take the play­ers from a level of pro­vin­cial par­tic­i­pa­tion to in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tion, so it takes more time and of course, in­vest­ment to keep the play­ers in camp for four months.

“The ques­tion then is, shouldn’t we be look­ing at in­vest­ing in a na­tional league so that we can have our na­tional team di­rectly from the na­tional league?”

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