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OPINION: CAF Women’s Football Symposium a step forward, but not enough

Earlier this week, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) held their first ever women’s football symposium aiming to make positive changes in women football. However, the elephant in the room still went undiscussed.

“It is to me an immense honour to preside over the opening of a prestigious symposium entirely dedicated to women, entirely consecrated to women’s football,” said CAF President Ahmad Ahmad in his opening speech at the CAF Women’s Football Symposium.

The first-of-its-kind event was held earlier this week in Morocco – a 2026 World Cup bid nation. It was the hopes of President Ahmad that the symposium would discuss issues related to developing women’s football on the continent. However, by the end of the two-day event, CAF ended up taking one step forward and two steps back.

One of the biggest reasons women’s football on the continent has failed to attract many countries is the finances. For example, it costs almost the same to enter a women’s national team into the African Cup of Nations as it does to enter a men’s national team. Yet, the rewards for the women’s edition of the competition are far less than that of the men’s edition. Thus, many federations that are tight financially see the men’s edition to be more profitable.

CAF responded to these issues with three main policies:

1)Federations to ensure the support of the government for the funding for the development of women’s football.
2)FIFA to increase the 15 per cent of the financial assistance dedicated to women’s football
3)CAF to ensure the budget dedicated to women’s football in each MA is spent on it.

In theory, these three policies would be a huge lift to the financial aspect of the sport, but they fail to mention a few important points.

First, many member associations either have a very small or non-existent budget dedicated to women’s football in the first place. This was obvious in Egypt for example as the Women’s Premier League, second division, and youth leagues were almost cancelled for the 2017/18 season. A last-minute donation saved the leagues and the campaigns began almost three weeks after schedule. CAF essentially put the onus on FIFA and the federations to fix the financial problems, and though part of the solution falls on them, the governing body didn’t mention how they would help nations.

CAF

CAF

In the outline of their solutions and ideas from the symposium, CAF mentioned on multiple occasions their role as ‘ensuring the, ensuring that, etc.’, but failed to state what they would actually do. They also added what they ‘should’ be doing versus what they will do. So what does CAF actually want to do for women’s football on the continent?

Simple. They want to add more competitions and expand already established competitions. The same competitions that national teams have had to time and time again withdraw from qualifications or not enter qualifications to begin with because of financial concerns.

CAF also hope to create a CAF Women’s Champions League. Once again, in theory, the idea is great and would be one of the few continental competitions for women footballers. But again, CAF have failed to realise the issues that are present in many of their member countries whose federations simply don’t have the money to be sending their teams abroad. Many women’s leagues don’t have money that comes from broadcasters or sponsorships like the men’s leagues. Thus, making it difficult to fathom a CAF Women’s Champions League without serious revamping of the system.

The CAF Women’s Symposium also saw many women’s legends not show up due to ongoing conflicts with duties. However, many people at the symposium itself added that many federations didn’t send representatives to begin with. Thus, the symposium became an event that CAF could say happened, but had very little input from the players it would impact.

The CAF Symposium on women’s football was a historical event in Africa and President Ahmad should be thanked for his attempts to making the event a success. But the fact remains, CAF discussed very few of the major problems affecting women’s football development in Africa. And for the few problems discussed, even fewer suitable solutions were proposed.

In addition to being a football/soccer and basketball enthusiast, I am currently pursuing a combined BS/MD degree at VCU. I also currently work as a Pharmacy Technician in my spare time.

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