By Harry Awurumibe
For the umpteenth time, no African country has either reached the last four or mounted the podium to receive medals of any colour since the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) introduced Women’s World Cup in China in 1991 as all the four African representatives at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand namely Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa and Zambia have crashed out of the competition.
Any hope of an African nation reaching at least the quarter-final stage in Australia and New Zealand was dashed on Tuesday, August 8, after France crushed Morocco 4-0 in the Round of 16 match, a result that ensured that no African country reached the podium finish as predicated by this writer ahead of the start of the competition in Down Under.
Although three African countries- Nigeria, Morocco and South Africa made it to the Round of 16 and winning at least one group match each, with only Zambia crashing out in the preliminary round, all the three that featured in the Round of 16 have failed to make it to quarter-final round as they lost to their opponents.
Unfortunately, the Banyana Banyana were beaten by Spain’s Oranje Girls with goals by Jill Roord 9′ and Lineth Beerensteyn 68′ enough to send battling South Africa back to Pretoria on Sunday, August 6 to prepare for another four years time.
However, expectations that at least Nigeria’s Super Falcons who had shown glimpses of brilliance in the three group matches by drawing against reigning Olympic champions Canada; beat co-host Australia 3-2 and drew with Republic of Ireland, will make it to quarter-finals later evaporated like the early morning dews on Monday, August 7 after England eliminated Nigeria on penalty shootout.
It was a match Nigeria would have won convincingly as the Super Falcons matched the quality of the Three Lionesses who also lost a key player in Lauren James to red card offence but the English ladies still managed to edge out Nigeria 4-2 via penalty shootout.
The failure of these three African countries to qualify for the quarter-final stage in Australia and New Zealand has once again exposed the deficiencies in the quality of football in Africa and standard of the game in the continent.
A closer look at the countries that qualified for the last 8 or the quarter-finals that will start on Friday, August 11 showed that the European confederation, UEFA produced the bulk of the qualifiers with five countries out of eight, leaving Asian confederation with two; South America one and Africa that boasts of 54 nations having none.
European countries still in the hunt for the covetd 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup are Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, France and England while Asia has Japan and co-host Australia with CONMEBOL having Colombia in the mix.
As it stands now, at least one European country is guaranteed to reach the last three teams and make podium finish on Sunday, August 20 in Australia.
For now, Nigeria’s senior women’s football team, Super Falcons’ quarter-final finish at the 3rd edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in the United States of America (USA) in 1999 still remains the higest stage an African country has reached since Women’s World Cup started in 1991 in China.
This has also shown that the Confederation of African Football (CAF), more than ever before, has alot of work to do to grow the game in the continent of Africa like Europe, Asia, CONMEBOL and Concacaf have done if any African country will smell a podium finish in the 10th edition of the biggest women’s football competition in the world billed for
It is now left for CAF to reach out to Africans who have done great things in the development of women’s football in their various countries, many whom have been overlooked by CAF Member Associations while pursuing their personal interest, to the detriment of women’s football development in Africa, to be involved in reshaping the game.
No matter how far patriotism can motivate one to say that African countries did well in Australia and New Zealand, some of us who have spent over 32 years in the development, promotion and administration of women’s football in Nigeria, know that Africa can do better than she is currently doing at the world stage.
Luckily, the present leadership of CAF has a listening ears and can chart a new course for women’s football in Africa. Until then, CAF representatives will continue to play the second fiddle to the rest of the world.
In deed, CAF has alot to do to bring Africa at par with Europe, Asia, CONMEBOL and Concaf. This is the plain truth.
Harry Awurumibe is Women’s Football Aficionado