- Tanzania retain CECAFA Women's Championship
- Rwanda host, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda also take part
- Tournament supported by FIFA Forward Programme
Teams belonging to the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) have not yet played a dominant role when it comes to women’s football on the continent. Although several members have managed to qualify for the CAF Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, only one – Ethiopia in 2004 – advanced to the semi-finals.
But the zone is taking the development of women’s football seriously, and Rwanda recently hosted four other nations in the second CECAFA Women’s Championship. According to CECAFA General Secretary Nicholas Musonye, the tournament more than achieved its aim.
“The standard of football was very high and football fans in Rwanda took to the tournament in a big way,” the Kenyan told FIFA.com. “I wish every football fan throughout the world would have seen the reaction of local football fans to the competition. You had young and old coming to watch the games, and you had families. Everybody felt welcome.
“And the players certainly responded in a very fine way. They produced excellent matches, plenty of goals and a thrilling competition that went down to the wire. The final match day was all decisive and three of the four teams involved in the final two matches could have still won the competition.”
Tanzania prove themselves again
As there were five competing teams, organisers decided that they would play the competition on a round-robin basis, with each team playing four games.
“That allowed each team maximum games and meant that no team played just two games and was then knocked out,” Musonye explained.
The hosts got their campaign off to a winning start, beating holders Tanzania 1-0 on the opening day, but the result turned out to be an anomaly, as it was to remain the only match Rwanda won and the only defeat the Tanzanians were to suffer.
And indeed it was a dramatic tournament as Tanzania played their way back into the event by trouncing front-running Uganda 4-1 in their third game. And in their final contest, they turned in another impressive performance against Ethiopia that saw them run out winners by the same score, which was enough to pip Uganda to top spot on goal difference.
The Kilimanjaro Queens also won two of the three individual awards, with Issa Fatuma Maonyo being voted as the most valuable player, while Donisia Daniel Minja shared the top scorer award with Ethiopian striker Meselu Abera Tesfamariam. Ugandan number one Ruth Aturo won the award for the best goalkeeper.
Uganda coach Faridah Bulega, who took her team to second place in her first tournament as head coach, said that she was satisfied with their performance.
“We may not have won it, but we managed to collect seven points from four games, losing only to eventual winners Tanzania. The girls are still young, and I am sure two or three years from now they will be a force to reckon with.”
FIFA makes it possible
It was, however, not only the players and teams that received praise from Musonye, with the official highlighting the role that FIFA played in the hosting of the tournament.
“We received FIFA funding through the Forward Programme," Musonye said. "The body was willing to come to our aid (through zonal association funding). Women’s football is such an important part of football development and even though we consider it highly important, we lack the resources to put enough money towards it. But in this case FIFA assisted us in putting together a first-class competition.”
The general secretary is confident that the players and teams will benefit from the experience of having played at the Women’s Championship.
“I believe that you will see two teams from our region qualify for the African Women’s Cup of Nations in the next two years and within five years one of our teams will make it to the World Cup finals.
“The teams need to play top-class competitive football on a regular basis and the Women’s Championship allowed them to do this. We are grateful to the Forward Programme and I am sure that the programmes will do just what the name implies: take women’s football in the CECAFA region forward.”