Akide: African women destined for new heights
© AFP

Legendary women’s Nigerian player Mercy Akide believes that Africa will be represented in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ semi-finals.

The inspirational and pioneering Akide, veteran of three FIFA Women’s World Cups, was part of the celebration of African women’s football that was the FIFA/CAF conference on the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 last weekend.

Held in Johannesburg, South Africa, the conference was the first to be held ahead of the FIFA/AFC conference on the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 scheduled for 6-8 December in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Further scheduled gatherings include a FIFA/CONCACAF conference from 26 to 29 January 2012, with the FIFA/UEFA conference in March.

Last weekend’s diverse programme included a presentation on the key success factors at the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011, a general analysis of the tournament, and podium discussions on the women's game in Africa, technical developments, and current trends.

I’m convinced that an African team will reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in four years' time.
Former Nigeria striker Mercy Akide

The Johannesburg conference was attended by many luminaries of the women’s game, including England coach Hope Powell and representatives from Japan; Eiji Ueda, chair of the Japanese FA women's committee, and Hiroyuki Horino, assistant national team coach.

Akide, who led a host of African women’s football royalty in attendance, said the event will contribute towards improving the knowledge and expertise of women coaches in Africa. “From this conference, we have learned a lot about the trends from other countries outside the continent, that’s important to us,” she said.

The future is Africa
Following Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea’s highly competitive showings in Germany earlier this year, and Nigeria’s semi-final appearance at last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Akide predicts that an African side will be among the top four teams at Canada 2015.

“I think we are not far [from other countries],” Akide told FIFA.com. “I’m convinced that an African team will reach the semi-finals of the World Cup in four years' time. Look at Equatorial Guinea, they have emerged from nowhere to be amongst the powerhouses in women’s football. Then you have countries like Nigeria, Cameroon and Ghana. South Africa is also investing a lot of money in their women’s team so they will be a threat soon.”

Despite the many gifted players produced on the Mother Continent, no African side has been able to advance to the semi-finals of FIFA’s flagship women's tournament. “I still don’t know why we haven’t reached the semi-finals or the finals because we have the players to do so,” said Akide, the first African to play professionally in USA. “That is why I say maybe we need to sit back and ask some questions about what is hampering development in our football.”

Akide said African teams should look at the example set by the victorious Japanese team, whose continual growth culminated in a stunning maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup win. “Many coaches in the African continent are not being empowered with the necessary knowledge one needs to succeed. We need to focus on educating coaches. We have players who are blessed with skills but maybe we should study what the Japanese did. We need to focus on our technical and tactical awareness.”