Women Football Taking Great Strides to Development

The women’s world cup final in Canada last summer was the most watched football match ever in USA.

For the American soccer fans and the game at large, cheap it was a great landmark. The runaway success of women’s football in USA after the team’s world cup triumph stamped a big mark on the perception of the role of women in the game.

Carli Lloyd who scored a hattrick in the final as USA beat Japan 5-2 now attracts the same endorsements as men and gets the same respect like any other athlete.

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The questions of whether women can play football just like men, do they deserve same media attention or can they get the same pay seem to be getting satisfying answers.

The growth of women’s football is evident across the globe, from USA to Australia and Germany to Japan.

Similarly, there’s delight and perhaps also certain honest surprise at the tremendous rise of women’s football in Uganda in the last two years.

From its inception in Uganda in the early 1990s pioneered by Paul Ssali (former Uganda cranes player) and Mrs. Rebecca Kazibwe alias “Maama Becca” (RIP), women’s football started with no defined structures.

Even when there was an attempt to start a national league in the mid-90s, it suffered a natural death due to various challenges.

It was the same case with the national team which would engage in CAF competitions but later withdraw because of finances, the latest case occurring in 2013 when the U20 team pulled out of the qualification campaign after dumping out South Sudan 22-0 on aggregate.

Since the start of the women’s national league (Fufa Women Elite league), there seems to be consorted efforts to take the game to another level.

From the quality of football on display, the increased number of girls and women involved in the game, the will from the federation to develop the game to the media attention, the future of women’s football can arguably be termed bright.

Two seasons down the road and now into the third in the elite league, the challenges and obstacles ranging from social to economic are still numerous but that doesn’t take away the fact that women’s football has gone a great stride.

Sandra Nabweteme is one of the successful stories of women's football in Uganda. She currently plays in USA

Sandra Nabweteme is one of the successful stories of women’s football in Uganda. She currently plays in USA

The league has provided a platform for the women to showcase their adroitness on a regular basis which has improved the level of competition.

In the inaugural edition last year, twelve teams took part with six in either group of Elizabeth and Victoria. However the number increased to sixteen in the second season hence giving opportunity to more players.

In August, Uganda hosted the women’s Cecafa competition at Njeru technical centre in Jinja, reviving her participation at the international level.

FIFA, the world’s football governing body is also determined to developed women’s football.

In 2015, 130 member associations benefited from one or more of the nine FIFA development programmes targeted specifically for women’s football.

Another impressive figure is the number of girls reached through the FIFA Live your goal project- a campaign dedicated to strengthen the image of women’s football and also increase the number of women who play football.

Uganda is one of the beneficiaries of the projects receiving playing equipment and holding two FIFA live your goal projects, one in Kampala last year and recently in May this year in Mbale.

With the creation of the league, the game had spread across different regions of the country having teams like Olila High School and Western United from Soroti and Mbarara District respectively.

Besides, when Sandra Nabweteme was crowned Fufa female footballer last year and awarded with a brand new car, many girls are working harder to attain similar glory.

Nabweteme has since moved to USA where she earned a scholarship at the South West Oklahoma State University because of her footballing talent.

Hasifa Nassuna who was crowned the Female player of year, was also rewarded with a brand new car.

At her age (18 years), she drives, a thing that is not common for majority of the Ugandans regardless of where they work.

Very many initiatives have been put in place to make sure more girls are attracted to the game. Fufa are planning to start a knockout competition next year.

Just last week, Crested cranes midfielder, Jean Sseninde who plies her trade at QPR in England organised a successful one day tournament that gave chance to many young girls to showcase their talent

Jean Sseninde who plays at QPR in England recently organised a tournament to encourage more girls to play football

Jean Sseninde who plays at QPR in England recently organised a tournament to encourage more girls to play football

The Challenges

Much as there has rapid success registered, the challenges to women’s football are numerous ranging from social, cultural to economic.

Culture: Culturally, football is widely regarded as a men’s game thus very many parents are not yet used to the fact of seeing their daughters taking part.

More so in the African setting where sports is not treated as a treasurable venture, many girls/women end up discouraged.

Economic factor: Sports industry still faces a big challenge of inadequate funding thus sustaining a team becomes difficult.

Most of the teams in the Fufa women elite league struggle to raise transport, allowances for the players and meeting the basic needs.

Other challenges include; societal stereotypes, lack of proper football structures, poor/lack of infrastructures (stadiums), low interest from government to invest in the sports sector.

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