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CAF’s proposal a boon for women’s football

FILE - Fazila Chembekezo of Malawi is tackled by Janine van Wyk of South Africa during the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship semi-final game at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

FILE - Fazila Chembekezo of Malawi is tackled by Janine van Wyk of South Africa during the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship semi-final game at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Nov 27, 2021


THE Confederation of African Football held their general assembly late last week and while a number of interesting subjects came out of it, there is one that piqued my interest.

It was not something the continent’s football governing body released officially. But murmurings from Cairo, Egypt are that CAF are considering making changes to eligibility for continental club competitions.

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Currently clubs have to win their domestic leagues or finish as runners-up to participate in the Champions League, while entry into the Confederation Cup is earned by winning their country’s premier knockout competition.

Fair enough. But now talk is that CAF are mulling over adding a proviso to these. For clubs to play, they will have to have female teams as well.

The reasoning behind this is simple. CAF are keen on seeing women’s club football growing in Africa, and no doubt encouraged by the recently completed inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League, they would love to see the ladies game becoming professional. And how better to do that than to have the professional clubs running that, right?

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Were this new condition to be introduced soon though, CAF would find themselves with literally no competitions.

Take us South Africa for example, of all the 16 teams in the Premier League only Mamelodi Sundowns have a female side, Banyana ba Style who recently won the inaugural Women’s Champions League.

And so it would be that the likes of Orlando Pirates, Marumo Gallants and AmaZulu who are in the CAF competitions this year would not be able to compete should they qualify again.

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Fortunately for South African clubs, a solution to forming female clubs could be to have them adopt the already existing ones playing in the local leagues.

It would make financial sense for a lot of these clubs to allow themselves to be under the care of outfits that have been professional for a long time.

Grand as the thought of growing the women's game on the continent is, I found myself wondering … what of the countries where it will be difficult to get the women playing due to some of the rules that prohibit them due to a dress code prescribed for them, for example?

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How easy will it be for most of the clubs, on a continent where women generally still live under oppression, to have all professional outfits being able to form proper female teams?

My guess is that it will be a difficult undertaking. But it is one worth giving a try although CAF will have to consider giving professional leagues the continent over fairly good time to form these clubs before they implement this provision they are apparently considering.

Here at home it should be easy to convince girl children to take up the sport. What with role models like Amanda Dlamini and Janine van Wyk out there. More so though, Sundowns’ success is sure to have many girls excited about the beautiful game and the PSL clubs would be smart to strike now while the proverbial iron is still hot and form their own female sides.

I was not able to go to the OR Tambo International Airport for the arrival of the continental conquering Sundowns Ladies from their CAF Champions League campaign in Egypt.

But watching the scenes on television took me back to 2016 when we welcomed their male counterparts from a similar success in Egypt.

Banyana ba Style’s feat has helped cement Sundowns’ status as the giants of not only South African but continental football too. And while credit must go to Patrice Motsepe for ensuring that the club is properly resourced to be successful, I found myself remembering that the Brazilians have generally been fortunate to have owners with deep pockets who stopped at nothing to ensure the club’s success.

In the 1980s the club was bankrolled – excuse the pun – by the flamboyant late Zola Mahobe who ensured that Screamer Tshabalala had everything with regards to playing personnel.

The result was that great highly successful Shoe Shine and Piano team that had just about every young boy I grew up with nicknaming themselves after one of the Sundowns players.

When Mahobe left the club under a cloud that involved him and his partner stealing from Standard Bank, the pharmaceutical giants that were twin brothers Abe and Solly Krok took over and money was not a problem for Sundowns and success followed.

Natasha and Angelo Tsichlas were not filthy rich but they ensured that the club was properly sponsored and thus remained successful.

The takeover by mining magnate Motsepe was always going to ensure the bar was taken many notches higher and boy have Sundowns become an unstoppable force!

Well, SuperSport United will probably disagree – Matsatsantsa having become the first club to score a league goal against the record Premiership champions who are chasing an unprecedented fifth league title in a row.

And they want to tell us that money can’t buy success. It is a trend the world over that the clubs that enjoy great financial backing are the ones that generally dominate their domestic leagues.

Yet while that is so, the problem with having moneyed men and women buying clubs is that some of them are not really doing it because they love and understand the game but rather to just show off, to flex as the current generation would say.

And that often leads to the demise of footballing institutions that were painstakingly built by men – ala the late Petrus Molemela – with football blood running in their veins.

The key here would be to find a balance that would see a well-off backer financing a club but being honest enough to admit that he would need people who know and understand the game to run it or him.