Women’s AFCON must be successful

BY: Daily Graphic

The 11th Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament kicks off this afternoon at the refurbished Accra Sports Stadium with Ghana’s Black Queens taking on their Algerian counterparts in the opening match of the tournament.

When veteran Ethiopian referee, Lidya Tafesse, signals the two teams into action, it will begin what is expected to be the celebration of two weeks of the best of African women’s football and two decades of the continent’s premier women’s competition.

Women’s football in Africa has come a long way. Since the inaugural tournament in the Nigerian city of Abeokuta in 1998, the tournament has grown in leaps and bounds and it is important that this year’s competition should signal the developments in the game both on the field and in organisation.

Since winning the hosting rights for the competition, Ghana’s Local Organising committee (LOC) has been in a race against time to meet the highest standards by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), including refurbishment of the Accra Sports stadium. Even though the Women’s AFCON may not be on the same scale as the men’s tournament, it is essential that the LOC ensures organisational finesse and also rolls out the proverbial Ghanaian hospitality for the visiting teams, CAF officials and other dignitaries to ensure that the November 17 to December 7 competition is a resounding success.

The 2008 Africa Cup of Nations tournament, hosted by Ghana, was largely hailed as one of the best organised competitions due to a lot of innovative efforts put in by the LOC to whip up public interest for the competition, as well as rallying Ghanaians behind the Black Stars.

Unlike the men’s competition, publicity for the competition has not been as massive as expected to create the anticipated football fever in the host cities of Accra and Cape Coast ahead of today’s big kick-off, but it is hoped that the LOC and the media will intensify publicity to ensure that today’s opening match and subsequent matches at the Accra and Cape Coast stadiums are well attended.

Closely linked to the success of such competitions also is the performance of the host team, hence it is important that the Black Queens are motivated well to get their campaign off to a winning start against Algeria to create the necessary euphoria for the tournament and also to fuel their host-and-win dreams.

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Since their first appearance at the Women’s AFCON two decades ago, in which the Black Queens finished as runners-up to Nigeria, the Ghanaian team have been chasing an elusive continental glory. On three occasions they finished as runners-up and on three occasions as bronze medallists. But this time, Coach Bashir Hayford and his talented players have the finest opportunity to live their dreams on home soil as they are guaranteed fanatical home support.

However, home advantage alone will not secure victory for Ghana as five previous tournaments were not won by the host team. The Black Queens will, therefore, have to dig deep and play with passion and to the best of their abilities like players hungry to cut a piece of football history.

It is important also that the government provides the necessary incentives to get the players and the technical handlers highly motivated to give of their best. Unfortunately, the authorities have sometimes been discriminatory when it comes to honouring their promises to the women’s teams, in spite of all the significant strides they have made over the years.

Even as we expect the Black Queens to go all the way to win the ultimate, the players are still owed outstanding bonuses after winning gold in the 2015 All Africa Games in Brazzaville. Such unfulfilled promises tend to demotivate sports stars and undermine their resolve to give of their best

It is the expectation of the Daily Graphic that the government, through the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Normalisation Committee of the GFA, will provide all that is needed and also honour its promises in time to ensure the players and their handlers are highly motivated to pick one of the three 2019 Women’s World Cup slots which are up for grabs and also achieve their host-and-win dreams.