Just a week after a record field lined up for the opening round of African zone 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers, the Mother Continent is set for a new milestone with the inaugural edition of the CAF Women’s Champions League.
Kanizat Ibrahim, CAF Fifth Vice-President and Chairperson of CAF Women’s Football Organizing Committee, described the tournament as a “window of hope”, while Isha Johansen, Vice-President of CAF Women’s Football Organizing Committee, said the tournament will help “change our narrative in the game as women in football, players and administrators”.
The tournament follows in the footsteps of the long-standing UEFA Women’s Champions League and Copa Libertadores Femenina, while Asia intends to establish the AFC Women’s Club Championship on an annual basis following several pilot editions.
Egypt will play host to the historic event with the eight-team, 14-day tournament kicking-off on Friday. Winners of six CAF Zones jousted for a ticket to the continental event with qualifiers between July and September.
They are joined by host nation representative – serial Egyptian winners Wadi Degla – and, for this edition only, an extra team from the zone of the defending CAF Africa Women Cup of Nations champions (West Africa).
Ghana’s Hasaacas Ladies shape as strong contenders having seen off renown Nigerian club Rivers Angels in the West African zone B decider. Mali’s AS Mande notably enter as West African zone A champs, while much interest will focus on three-time South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns. The tournament will be an opportunity to highlight women’s football in North Africa.
Aside from the hosts, the region will be represented by Morocco’s AS FAR. “I always wished that we promote and develop our game to the international level,” said Wadi Degla’s star winger Alia Zenouki.
“This CAF Women Champions League is a great addition and will help us to play against big teams and gain a lot of experience. It will also encourage all Egyptian clubs to have their women teams to play on the continental level, and this will make the next domestic leagues more competitive and exciting.”
Ibrahim, who is also President of the Comoros Football Federation hailed the tournament as a landmark event.
“It is an event that marks the history of women’s football, it represents a window of hope for women around the world and anything is possible when the will is there,” she said. “Having a Women’s Champions League will make younger people want to take up the challenges and dream of one day being able to participate. Women can also be in the foreground with a technical performance comparable to that of men.” Ibrahim added she has a hunger to see women’s football grow rapidly on the continent.
“We cannot talk about the development of women’s football without talking about infrastructure, training, fundraising and management strategy to support this development. It goes without saying that if women’s football is well structured, the sponsors will only be able to support it.
“Women’s football is the future of the sport on a global level.”