While we looked on perfect track for success in women football, abruptly Tanzania is reeling off the track into undesirable destiny.
The elimination of Twiga Stars from the African Women Championship last week heralds a gradual plunge in the game for women which previously looked on perfect stage for success.
When all our eyes and ears were trained on the titanic two-leg affair between Young Africans and Al Ahly, Twiga Stars were crashing out of the African Women’s Championship qualifiers’ first round. It was not even a big women’s football nation that dumped Twiga Stars. It was Zambia’s Shepolopolo.
Zambia might be a continental football giant but like in many African countries, they are just discovering women’s version of the game. They are yet to qualify for the African Women’s Championship, a feat that we achieved in 2010, barely four years ago.
With all due respect to Zambia as a traditional men’s football powerhouse most of us expected Twiga Stars to sail through to the next round. As contrasted to Zambia, our players are more experienced having played in a major tournament.
The likes of Sophia Mwasakili, Fatuma Omary, Mwapewa and Asha Rashid have been playing for Twiga Stars for more than five years. Unlike Zambian players who were making their international debuts, the above named Twiga Stars trio combined has more than twenty caps between them.
In terms of experience, the Zambian ladies were novices; we were the ‘professionals’ in that battle who did not deserve to lose the match. In fact, Twiga Stars boasted of two players who had played in Europe, Sophia Mwasakili until recently was playing in Turkey while another player had a stint in Sweden.
Against all odds, Twiga Stars qualified for the African Women Championship in 2010 in South Africa. Qualification for such a major continental tournament was supposed to be a breakthrough for women’s sports in the country. It was an accomplishment that even the senior men’s football team has fruitlessly pursued for the last 34 years.
Taifa Stars qualified for the 1980 African Cup of Nations, it was their first and last time to qualify. It now seems as if Twiga Stars are falling into the same fate. Once in a blue moon qualification for major continental tournament.
When we won the inaugural Airtel Rising women’s football in Nigeria everyone went gaga and dreamed big. We dreamed and dreamed only. In contrast, our fellow finalists used the Airtel Rising Stars tournament success as a springboard in their country women’s football.
They used their U-17 side to qualify for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup while our U-20 were being thrashed at home and away by their South African counterparts. It won’t be a surprise if their senior side qualifies for the World Cup in a few years while Twiga Stars sink deep into obscurity.
It was shocking to actually hear a leader tasked with women’s football claiming that we are one of the best eight teams in the continent. I don’t know which ranking was she referring to or when was it the last time she checked the FIFA Women’s ranking to come with such a bold statement.
Now that we have been knocked out, it seems two players are being used to deflect attention from real issues bedeviling women’s football. However indiscipline the two showed, they don’t carry the cross of our disappointment.
Like two years ago when we were bundled out by Ethiopia and the issue of lesbianism surfaced, the two alleged indiscipline players are just being used as scapegoat. It is an old Ostrich tactic.
We can take this as a wake-up call. Time to seriously take on women’s football – to start paying attention to our women and to grow the sport domestically so that our women have the chance to grow, develop and flourish in their careers. If we can do it for the men, then why can’t we do it for the women?
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN