Women’s football in Africa suffered another major setback following the decision of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to cancel the 2020 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations.
The 2020 AWCON already had its problems, with CAF struggling to find a host nation for the tournament.
Congo won the hosting rights in September 2018, but pulled out in July 2019 due to financial problems, while South Africa rejected the chance to step in as emergency hosts.
At the start of the year, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea signalled their interests in staging the event, but nothing concrete came out of that.
The move to cancel the continental showpiece was part of a number of decisions reached during the virtual CAF Executive Committee meeting at the end of June.
“Due to challenging conditions, the 2020 edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations has been cancelled”, the African football governing body said in a statement.
The 2020 AWCON was due to run from November 23rd to December 1st and was set to feature 12 nations for the first time in the tournament’s history.
News of the cancellation came as a major disappointment to Nigerian football fans, who had been hoping to cheer the record-breaking Super Falcons to an incredible tenth title.
Nigeria’s stranglehold on the AWCON may have eased in recent years, but the Falcons remain the No. 1 nation in Africa and would have been favourites to retain the continental crown.
We love our football betting in this country, and most of us would have confidently backed the women’s team to claim the title on the betting sites.
Everyone understands that these are challenging times, but the decision to cancel the most important women’s competition on the calendar sends a very disturbing message, especially since some of the men’s tournaments were postponed, rather than cancelled.
The men’s AFCON, initially scheduled for June 2021, was shifted to January 2022, while the Africa Nations Championship, a tournament for home-based footballers in Africa, was moved to January 2021, having been originally slated for April 2020. Both events will be held in Cameroon.
CAF even managed to find some space in 2020 to accommodate the conclusion of its major men’s inter-club competitions, with the Champions League and Confederation Cup set to resume in September.
The continental body is apparently on a mission to show that it does not really care about women’s football.
CAF’s decision to prioritize men’s football makes sense from a business perspective- that’s where most of the money comes from- but they also have a responsibility to promote and develop the women’s game. Cancelling the 2020 event is not the way to go.
“If you’re moving the tournament forward to some time in 2021, it is okay, but to completely cancel it? We need a proper explanation. This is more like taking five steps forward and taking 10 steps backwards”, said reigning African women’s footballer of the year, Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala.
“We cannot be at this level in 2020. It is a shame. CAF needs to go back to their drawing board to make sure they fix women’s football in one of their top priorities”.
One piece of good news that came out of that CAF meeting was that the first-ever CAF Women’s Champions League will be staged in 2021. Africa will become the fourth continent, after Asia, Europe and South America to have an inter-club competition. The format and exact dates of the Champions League will be communicated at a later date.
While the creation of a women’s Champions League is great news for the development of the game in Africa, it does not excuse or make up for the cancellation of the women’s AFCON. In fact, it seems more like an attempt to appease female football stakeholders on the continent.
The decision to scrap the 2020 AWCON was a poor call from the Confederation of African Football.