Sky is the limit as Sundowns Ladies set sights on Club World Cup
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Cape Town - Just a week after Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies scaled the dizzy heights of African football, they have set their sights on conquering the Everest of women’s football, the Club World Cup, next year.
The Club World Cup is currently in planning mode after Fifa president Gianni Infantino outlined the programme for the tournament a few months ago.
It is planned that they tournament will feature the champions of the six continental regions (AFC, Caf, Concacaf, Conmebol, OFC and Uefa), along with the champion team of the host nation.
In his address at Safa House to the visiting Caf Women’s Champions League champions Sundowns this week, Safa president Danny Jordaan sold the idea to Sundowns chairman Tlhopie Motsepe and his triumphant team. He urged them to set their sights on the women’s club crown.
“You need to do this all over again next year, starting with winning the Cosafa Regional playoffs and then qualifying for the Caf Champions League,” said Jordaan.
“If you win again next year, there is an added incentive because the Caf winners will qualify for the Fifa Women’s Club championship.”
Tlhopie will no doubt be mindful of the special place women’s soccer has in the heart of his father, Patrice, the most powerful man in African soccer. During his election campaign a few months ago, women’s soccer was a strong feature throughout his push for the presidency.
“We want women’s football to be significantly growing and progressing in the period of my presidency,” said Patrice. “Someone was saying to me, we could actually have an African nation winning the Fifa Women’s World Cup before we have a male team doing so.”
Patrice was present in Egypt last week to watch Sundowns lift the trophy after beating Ghana’s Hasaacas Ladies FC 2-0 in the final of the inaugural Women’s Champions League. He was accompanied by Fifa bigwigs Fatma Samoura (secretary-general) and Sarai Bareman (chief women’s football officer), who were impressed by the performances, notably Sundowns.
“I am thrilled to have seen the best of African women’s club football display their outstanding talent and skill during this competition,” said Samoura. “This tournament is historic and provides a fantastic platform to show young girls around Africa that women’s football is growing, and they too can be part of it.
“I’m proud of the performances of all of the teams involved, and they should have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment having reached this prestigious competition.”
Bareman said the performances were impressive during the 10-day continental event.
“The successful planning and hosting of the Caf Women’s Champions League was an important milestone for the female game in Africa,” said Bareman. “It provided clubs with a chance to showcase their talent, and what we have seen has been impressive.
“This important competition will play a vital role in the professionalisation of women’s football in Africa as we will start to see clubs and leagues strengthen their structures, driven by a top-level competition.”
The drive to boost women’s football has not been lost on Tlhopie who has been heartened by the news from Caf that a club that does not have a ladies team will not be allowed to participate in future Caf Champions League competitions, starting with the 2022-23 season.
Tlhopie said Sundowns have fielded a ladies team over a decade, although there are serious challenges.
“At Sundowns, we are proud we have been doing this for more than a decade,” said Tlhopie. “It is not as easy as simply registering the team, and then it is there.
“It is a process, and it is a very difficult and costly one too. There is the office, management, practice fields, the home ground, coaches and support staff. These are all the things you need a budget for to have a ladies team.
“First of all, it is important to give those clubs (who do not have a ladies team) the due respect to make that decision if they would like to have a ladies team.”
Caf’s decision will impact the two PSL giants Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, who presently do not have women’s teams. If and when these two iconic clubs do field women’s teams, Sundowns will not necessarily be at an advantage.
“It’s not necessarily an advantage because we have been doing this before other teams (since 2009),” said Motsepe. “For us, it is about making sure that all divisions of the club strive for excellence, to be the best.
“This is part of our club’s duty to the country to make sure we have a strong women’s team.”
Meanwhile, now that the dust has settled on the victory celebrations, Sundowns Ladies will be smiling all the way to the bank. Caf have not yet announced prize money for winning the Champions League, but Tlhopie has confirmed the players will strike it rich.
“The club has taken a policy to reward these women for the outstanding job that they have done, and this is something that we (Sundowns) are taking care of,” said Tlhopie.