FIFA lauds COSAFA region for investment in women’s football

Secretary General Fatma Samoura and FIFA’s Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman were in Durban over the weekend to attend the final of the 2021 TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League | COSAFA Qualifiers, where they shared the organisation’s vision for the future of the women’s game.

Mamelodi Sundowns booked their ticket to the continental finals with a 3-0 win over Black Rhinos Queens of Zimbabwe in Saturday’s decider, and Samoura says the inaugural Women’s Champions League competition will have a positive influence on national teams in the region.

“It is important that we promote the club and league competitions, because those represent the nurseries for the national teams,” Samoura said. “The [CAF] Women’s Champions League is also critical for providing the best players to the national team.”

Samoura says that the expansion of the FIFA Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams in 2023 will also have a positive spin-off for Africa.

“I was in France two years ago, where I saw for the first time the South African national team competing at the [Women’s] World Cup.

“From what we have seen the gap between South Africa and elite women’s football is so narrow, and by coming here we would like [to encourage] the whole country to support South Africa to close that gap further.”

But she adds that for women’s football to reach its potential, investment is needed in the game.

“We need more investment. We might not generate the revenue that the men’s game does, but we have seen what the girls are capable of doing when they belong to big clubs. My plea is to get more investment from corporations in the COSAFA region.”

She adds that with the expanded focus of FIFA on women’s football, there has never been a better time to get involved in the sport.

“My advice to the girls is to believe in yourself and dream big, and you can achieve those dreams.”

Bareman echoed those thoughts and says FIFA has massive plans for the women’s game in the coming years.

“Women’s football is a top priority at FIFA, and you can see that by the presence of our Secretary General [Samoura] here, but also the support at the highest level from our President Gianni Infantino,” Bareman says.

“For us, it is about investment. We have 211 member associations around the world, and it is very important that with the support we offer to those countries, there is ring-fenced funding that is specifically for women’s football.

“In addition to funding, we also assist our member associations with development programmes like coaching and administration, and Women in Football leadership capacity building.

“We are trying to tackle each facet of the ecosystem in the women’s game. We have a long way to go, and it is important to grow in a sustainable way and that we have a clear strategy.”

Bareman also had special praise for the work being done in the COSAFA region, led by General Secretary Sue Destombes.

“I love the work that COSAFA is doing for women’s football. They are one of the regions that we have seen has been consistently investing in the women’s game, especially through competitions like we see here.

“It is the first ever qualifiers for the CAF Champions League and at the same time, they are also investing in youth with a [Girls] Under-15 tournament as part of the legacy programme.

“So, there is a lot of work happening with Sue and her team, and COSAFA is a wonderful region and example for women’s football.”

Bareman says the ultimate goal is to bring parity between the men’s and women’s game.

“We want to see women’s football in the mainstream, and what that means is that in the end we are not referring to men’s football or women’s football, it is just football.

“We want to see more women in leadership positions, these sorts of things should be normalised. And we can only do that by growing at grassroots [level] and to get more people participating, but also investing at the top level.

“We need more sponsors for the women’s game and for me, it is a no-brainer. Women’s football has so many qualities associated with it that so many companies would love to align with. It is a beautiful sport,” Bareman says.

COSAFA will continue its investment in the women’s game with the COSAFA Women’s Championship that will be staged in Nelson Mandela Bay from September 28-October 9.

There will also be a Women’s Under-17 Championship that will be played at the AUSC Region 5 Games in Lesotho in December.