Rise of women’s football drives CAF to invest in it

More women are taking up the game and challenging the status quo

In Summary

• A CAF report shows significant growth in women playing, coaching and refereeing

• It plans to boost this growth with funding, development and structural investments

Women footballers during a past match
Women footballers during a past match
Image: CAF

Women's football in Africa is scoring new progress goals, with more female players, coaches and referees joining the game than ever before.

Confederation of African Football's first Women's Football Landscape report 2022 shows there are 150,653 registered female players, 4140 female coaches and 4,724 female referees under CAF.

With a record 47 out of 54 countries in the continent having women's national teams, the traditionally male-dominated sport is growing to become an all-gender sport.

"We can see that great progress has been made in terms of development and participation, with 47 MAs having a senior women's national team," CAF head of women's football Meskerem Goshime said.

With most stakeholders below the age of 20, there is no doubt more young women are falling for the sport.

"The data shows that these players are young, with more than 70 per cent of them being under 20 years old," Goshime said.

"There is also a great improvement in our member associations in terms of the commitment of women's U-20 and U-17 teams."

The survey across 52 football associations found that most (71 per cent) had implemented grassroots programmes to cultivate budding talent.

In a remarkable strategy, 82 per cent of these associations have partnered with schools to provide young footballers with a nurturing platform to hone their skills.

This momentum is sustained as the youngsters grow into national leagues and competitions.

"A women's top division competition is organised in 91 per cent of CAF Member Associations," the report reads in part.

Women footballers, coaches and referees have already made their mark in the global football arena. Asisat Oshoala famously plays for Spanish League club Barcelona as well as Nigeria's national team, the Super Falcons.

She is a contender in the race for the coveted top scorer title in the Women's Champions League.

Meanwhile, Rwandese referee Salima Mukansanga became the first African female referee to preside over a men's World Cup match in Qatar last year.

National and club women's teams from the continent have also competed at the top levels of world football, with six of the continent's member associations under CAF represented in the eight editions of the FIFA Women's World Cup competitions between 1991 and 2019.

Nigeria has made the most appearances (8), followed by Ghana (3), Cameroon (2) and Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa with one each.

Of the nine editions of the Under-20 Women's World Cup played between 2002 and 2018, Nigeria appeared in all nine, Ghana in five and DR Congo two. Nigeria finished in second place in 2010 and 2014 and 4th place in 2012.

CAF president Patrice Motsepe said the CAF 2021-25 Action Plan significantly focuses on women's football development.

Women-specific football programmes include the Women's Champions League competition, with a $1.55 million prize, an increase of 100 per cent. The second edition of the CAF Women's Champions League was held in Morocco last November and won by the Moroccan club AS Far.

The title prize for the Women's African Cup of Nations has been increased by 150 per cent to US$2.4 million.

Som 180,000 girls participate in the African Schools Football Championship, while development programmes featuring football managers and administrators are also actively under implementation by CAF.

FIFA's 2022 global transfer report showed Nigeria and Ghana among the 10 countries making female football transfers in Africa.

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