The much-awaited Women Africa Football Cup of Nations competition is set to begin in Cameroon.
Eight nations from different parts of Africa are finally in Cameroon for the tenth Africa Women Cup of Nations (AFCON) competition taking place from 19 November to 3 December, 2016. Most, if not all of the best countries known for their talents in female football are involved. That alone is indicative of the quality of play that fans are gearing up to watch.
Nigeria, with a total of nine participations holds a record presence and has remained the Achilles’ heel of host country, Cameroon. Luckily, both sides will not be in the same pool at the group stage of the competition. While Ghana, Kenya, and Mali will battle it out with Nigeria in the seaside town of Limbe, Egypt, South Africa and Zimbabwe are going to be in the nation’s capital, Yaounde, alongside Cameroon.
The enthusiasm that the event has generated across the continent clearly reflects the growing popularity of female football. The warm-up matches that Cameroon has been engaged in over the last two months helped to give a foretaste of the high-level spectacle expected from the participating teams. Facing Mali and Kenya that are in Group B, the Indomitable Lionesses demonstrated a sense of purpose and determination. Even the Tanzanians who are not part of the Cameroon 2016 AFCON gave the Lionesses a run for their money in their last test match on Sunday 13 November 2016.
They beat the Lionesses 2-1 to send a simple message that it may be too early for fans of the team to count on home advantage alone for victories. In addition, the lone defeat faced by the Lionesses in all the friendly games obliged Head Coach, Carl Enow Ngachu to sit-up with his girls to overcome the runners-up position they occupied in 1991, 2004 and 2014. Neighbouring Nigeria has in each of the cases eliminated Cameroon at the finals to carry home the trophy.
Thus, there is every reason to think that the 2016 Female AFCON may be a turning point in the history of the competition both for host, Cameroon and the entire event. An increase in cash prize for the winners as from the next edition announced by Africa Football Confederation (CAF) will surely augur well for female football. Officials of the Cameroon Football Federation, FECAFOOT, who have until now given little consideration to female football, definitely need to change after this tenth edition.
Sports and social infrastructure intended to ensure a successful hosting of the competition in Cameroon initially appeared to be an uphill task until the Head of State designated the Prime Minister, Head of Government to ensure regular follow-up so that all what was earmarked for the competition to be ready on time. Today, what looked like a nightmare has witnessed a happy end with modern football stadiums in Limbe and Yaounde and host hotels rehabilitated.
Although the roads from Yaounde to Limbe may not be the best, efforts by the Minister of Public Works to guarantee that delegates circulate under required safety conditions is also another sign that a facelift is possible in road network thanks to the AFCON. Another non negligible factor has been the general mobilisation in nearly all sectors of society in the country to ensure a successful hosting of the competition. Lively warm up matches by the Lionesses have largely contributed in wetting the appetite of sports lovers, in general, on the vitality of the 2016 Female AFCON.
With the competing teams now present in Cameroon and the sites set, football battles can now begin and the usual passion, excitement and nervousness that is characteristic of football events of this magnitude will surely keep fans alert in the next two weeks. Dance groups, fan clubs and supporters from the various countries that are involved in the games have been rehearsing for weeks and will certainly fight to undo each other as their teams battle it out on the football pitches in Limbe and Yaounde.