FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura has urged women to take a more active role in soccer administration.
In her address as the headline speaker at this year's Africa Women's Sports Summit, hosted virtually by Ghana, the first female to hold the powerful post in world football’s governing body said women had it in them to take leading roles in the beautiful game.
"Don't underestimate yourself. Believe in yourself, when you are called upon to lead it is because you have the skills. I believe in hard work. One thing I have learnt is that the men won't do you a favour just because you are a woman. Be resilient, innovative and have personal values," she said.
The FIFA secretary-general also spoke about her love for football and her dream to see Africa become an international force in the world’s most popular sport.
On the continued scourge of racism in sport, she said, "It is unfortunate that racism is still present today in sport and with the support of the FIFA president (Gianni Infantino) I picked up this fight. A sport as diverse as football should never see anyone suffering on the pitch because of skin colour, so in 2017 FIFA introduced a three step procedure to combat discrimination at our competitions to pursue a zero tolerance policy towards racist and discriminating incidents in football, and severely punish such behaviour. Racism should be nowhere in society."
The African Women's Sports Summit was founded by Ghanaian broadcaster Juliet Bawuah in 2019.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Women’s Football chairperson Barbra Chikosi has rallied the private and public sectors to give more financial and technical support to the women’s game.
Since its inception a decade ago, the Zimbabwe Women’s League has been run on a shoestring budget, and even serial winners Black Rhinos Queens - who have won every league crown since 2010 - only have medals to show for their stunning success.
The lack of technical and financial support is a situation that prevails across most women’s football leagues.
At the launch of the Jacaranda Women’s League prior to the new coronavirus-induced lockdown, Botswana Football Association vice-chairperson Motlalepula Bakani said, “We do not have qualified referees in the league in which sometimes forces us to engage unqualified personnel which demoralises players.”
The Botswana Women’s Football League started in 2012 with Reteng Banyana leading the way, and it now has 10 teams under the rebranded Jacaranda League which is sponsored to the tune of a paltry P40,000 (US$3,700).
Women footballers are paid far less than their male counterparts.
In the SADC region, Kick4Life FC - which plays in the Lesotho Women’s Super League - has notably made a commitment to pay female players the same as male footballers.
Another issue is that of lack of international club competition for women’s soccer teams.
In Zimbabwe, the secretary-general of Black Rhinos Queens, Panganai Mahachi, said “We have conquered domestic football circles, winning everything from cup tournaments to league titles. But we have always wished to have a platform to compete against the best in the region or continent as a club.”
That opportunity has just been availed with the Confederation of African Football recently announcing a CAF Women’s Champions League starting next year.
CAF said the Women’s Champions League will follow zonal eliminations, with next year’s inaugural edition featuring eight teams.
Preparations for regional tourneys under the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) are underway.
Cosafa secretary-general Sue Destombes said, “The details are still being finalised in order to take the finished product to Cosafa Executive Committee for approval. This tournament will be a dress rehearsal for the CAF Women Champions League.
“This will be a tournament whereby we expose our own female clubs to massive competition which they will experience when they play in the CAF Women Champions league. This will be similar to competitions that must be organised by the other zones and it will act as an
automatic qualifier to the CAF WCL tournament.
“The regional championship will provide an opportunity for the development of women coaches, instructors, referees and administrators among many other benefits.”
Reporting by Thando Mnkandhla in Windhoek and Tadious Manyepo in Harare