SIERRA LEONE-Huge boost for women’s football

BY Thomas Kwenaite
Two countries at the opposite ends of the continent have taken giant strides in the promotion of women’s football with the establishment of proper structures to develop a game neglected across Africa.Sierra Leone acknowledge they lack proper structures to promote women’s football but will nonetheless proceed with a 12-team professional league in the West African country.

South African Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan revealed his organisation had finalised logistics for the establishment of a national professional set-up of 12 teams.

“We lack the right structures at the moment with no proper calendar and we sadly cannot attract sponsors,” said Foday Turay, chairman of the Sierra Leone Western Area Football Association.

Turay doubles as an executive committee member of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) but despite their challenges, and backed by FA president Isha Johansen, they’re forging ahead to fulfil their mandate of developing women’s football.

“At the moment we can only sustain the league and save the women’s game from a total collapse. We are, however, confident that somewhere along the line, a sympathetic corporate will come along and invest in what we are trying to achieve.”

To their credit and despite real social and economical challenges, Sierra Leone is among 19 African countries entered for the 2018 Under-20 World Cup in France.

Encouraged by the visit of Brazilian star Vieira da Silva, better known as five-time Fifa Women’s Player of the Year Marta, who is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Sierra Leone are dreaming of qualifying for France when they host Libya in a fortnight.

Jordaan, meanwhile, said that nine Safa provincial winners as well as Bloemfontein Celtic and Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies teams and the winners of the universities tournament would form the inaugural national women’s league.

“After a workshop in Durban, we reached a decision that we must form a national league for women’s football because when Banyana plays, the players are selected from the Sasol squad, which is the provincial squad,” Jordaan said.

“All national teams are selected from the national league, but in the case of women’s football, we have provincial leagues, no national league, national team and international qualification.

“Therefore, that gap, revealed by (former Banyana coach) Vera Pauw, was that we have to address that gap because when we last went to the Olympics, I think they were in camp for four months.

“She explained that she needed that time to take the players from a level of provincial participation to international participation, so it takes more time and of course, investment to keep the players in camp for four months.

“The question then is, shouldn’t we be looking at investing in a national league so that we can have our national team directly from the national league?”

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