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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Wafcon 2022: Can Africa capitalise on success of tournament in Morocco?

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This year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco has raised the stakes for women’s football across the continent, but the next challenge is to capitalise on its success.
Expanded to 12 teams and with increased prize money from the Confederation of African Football (Caf), the tournament saw record crowds for women’s matches and culminated with South Africa lifting the trophy for the first time.
“This has been fantastic but there is always more that can be done,” winning coach Desiree Ellis told BBC Sport Africa.
“The next step is to get structured leagues and professionalise the sport. If we want to compete with the rest of the world, that’s the way to go because there is enough talent in Africa to win a World Cup.”
A crowd of 45,562 watched the semi-final between Morocco and Nigeria, with the final between the hosts and South Africa beating that record again with over 50,000 in attendance at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium.
Uganda international Jean Sseninde described the atmosphere as “electric”, while Isha Johansen, the former president of the Sierra Leone Football Association, said she was “stunned” by the amount of people in the stands in Rabat.
“I think we have created role models,” Sseninde told BBC Sport Africa. “We have inspired generations of young footballers through this tournament.”
Morocco have invested heavily in the women’s game over the past few years, with the Atlas Lionesses finishing as runners-up on their return to Wafcon after a 22-year absence.
“Just seeing Morocco with what they have done and the investment they’ve made, I think women’s football and a lot of countries will learn from it,” former Nigeria international Mercy Akide said.
“When I see those countries that are investing, if you give it four or five years, it is going to be amazing, I am so grateful that I am still alive to see what Caf is doing for women’s football.”
South Africa picked up improved prize money of $500,000 but there is still a vast gap to the rewards on offer in the men’s game, given Senegal took home $5m for their Nations Cup triumph in February.
Caf’s technical study group has now recommended that Wafon be expanded from 12 to 16 teams, while, at club level, the second edition of the eight-team African Women’s Champions League is scheduled for October in Morocco.

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