Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
THE 0-4 loss our under-17 women’s national soccer team suffered in Botswana in the preliminary round, return leg of the Uruguay 2018 World Cup qualifier was embarrassing, to say the least.
After beating Botswana 5-2 in the first leg at home, we all thought qualification to the first round was guaranteed.
What else would have the nation been waiting for after a healthy first leg advantage?
We assumed that the coach Kaluba Kangwa had read the Tswanas perfectly, and, having scored two goals here, they were going to attack ferociously in Gaborone.
Kangwa needed to plan for the second leg thoroughly knowing what was expected in Gaborone but it is like he and the entire squad went to sleep.
The athletic Tswanas pounded to qualify for the first round 6-5 on aggregate.
I was almost tempted to lampoon all the blame on Kangwa for the exit but on second thoughts, I will point my ‘gun’ at his employers, the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) for not prioritising the development of women’s football in the country.
It is like FAZ is concentrating on men’s football at the expense of the womenfolk.
That is lack of focus on the part of FAZ. How does FAZ appoint community coaches to head the under-17 national team when we have coaches in the Super Division who are capable?
Even assistant coaches in the Super Division can add value to the women’s national team, especially the under-17.
FIFA has put in a lot of money in football associations to develop women’s football but FAZ is not putting things in the right way.
Currently, we have two leagues – one in the Copperbelt and the other in the Midlands. It is important for the country to move forward with women’s football. To begin to grow the women’s league, FAZ should be magnanimous and come up with a nationwide league.
The establishment of a women’s football league is long overdue in Zambia.
I do not like the current scenario in which women’s football has been ignored, neglected and abandoned.
We cannot expect our young girls and women to perform beyond expectations if we do not invest materials and capital in this field of sport.
South Africa, Nigeria, the United States of America, Norway, the United Kingdom and some African countries are going beyond the bar to support and rejuvenate women’s football in terms of talent identification, recruitment of coaching staff, building of women football sports stadia, promotion of women’s football by the corporate world, payment of salaries of the technical staff, payment of salaries of women football players and advertising the sport of women.
I am sure corporates that sell women’s products such as Brazil hair, lightening creams and other health products will be willing to come on board to boost women’s soccer.
Even the First Lady, Esther Lungu, will be willing to render her motherly support to the She-polopolo.
FAZ also needs dedicated journalists who it can work with in reporting on affairs of women football in Zambia, and engendering political will from government officials to pay special attention to women’s football in Zambia. Through this, women’s football will leap-frog and many girl-children will have jobs, many coaches will be employed, and in the final analysis the women footballers could reach the World Cup stage.
FAZ should prioritise women’s football for it to go to the zenith.
It is the expectation of stakeholders that FAZ and the Ministry of Education will prioritise the girl-child in the talent identification exercise following the signing of the memorandum of understanding between FAZ, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Youth and Sport.
In fact, FAZ should set up a centre of excellence or high performance centre to accelerate the development of women’s football in the country.
This should go a long way in tapping talent at the grass-roots level.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.