In this interview with CAFOnline.com, the Senegalese Abdoulaye Cissé, the director of competitions for the West African Football Union (WAFU) Zone A delivers the annual program of competitions in the regional body. He announces the ambition of the organization to develop women’s football by helping zonal national teams to win the continental title in the years to come.
The program for the year 2022…
For this year, there are continental qualifications and zonal competitions which are as follows:
Qualifying tournaments for CAF competitions: the U17 and U20 in men’s football and the Champions League in women’s football. These tournaments are scheduled to be played in Cape Verde, Mauritania and Liberia respectively.
The tournaments of the WAFU Zone A: There are the U15 men’s tournaments which will take place in Sierra Leone. In Liberia, there will be the U17 women’s tournaments, U20 women’s and senior women’s tournaments. At this level, we are awaiting confirmation from the host countries.
Apart from these competitions, it is planned to hold the WAFU Cup of Nations in partnership with Fox Television for all member federations of the two WAFU zones.
In the zonal program, there is also the African Schools Championship football which is planned for Senegal.
All programs are scheduled between July and December.
Impact of the 2021 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations?
WAFU Zone A is pleased with the qualification of eight out of the nine member federations and the good results of the national team. For the first time, Senegal, a member of the zone won the continental trophy. And there were good results with several countries in the second round of the competition. Even the national teams of Mauritania and Sierra Leone, which were eliminated in the first round, proved that work is done at the local level. For the TotalEnergies AFCON 2023, the objective is to do better by qualifying the nine countries and to increase solidarity between national teams by organizing friendly matches between our teams in the zone. There is a possibility of seeing the national teams of the zone play each other at all levels. And that will solve a lot of worries, especially logistics. These results should encourage us to multiply competitions in this area and let all Federations take part in these competitions. The whole zone of WAFU A was happy with the AFCON title triumph of Senegal and its qualification for the World Cup. We will improve the solidarity to the overall benefit of our zone.
Women’s football to be developed…
We already have three ladies’ tournaments for the year 2022, U17 and U20 ladies’ tournaments and qualification for the Ladies Champions League. And beyond the qualifying competitions for CAF tournaments, we will focus on these women’s football competitions to boost practice. Everything will be done as a first step to bring as many federations to take part in women’s football competitions. There are still psychological and social barriers to break down, but the West Zone A of WAFU is committed to doing everything possible to help as many people as possible to play football, especially women. There is real potential and we are convinced that a good result in the next continental competitions will have an impact and could change the situation. But in the meantime, we must increase the number of zonal women’s competitions but also encourage the federations to go in this direction. And the federations must help lift women’s football to the top by really investing in it.
Lower level football ?
The qualification format in continental competitions is not to the advantage of our National Federations which make a lot of development efforts. Currently, the WAFU Zone A is one of the strongest if not the strongest in U17 and U20. At AFCON U20 in 2019, the final was played by Mali and Senegal, two national teams from the area. In Mauritania, the final was played between Gambia (a country in the zone) and Ghana. A lot of energy and financial support are deployed by the Federations of the zone but the qualifications being zonal, it has become very difficult.
This is the strategy deployed by the continental body. We have to deal with it and continue to work because, failing to play the youth AFCONs, will not help these young footballers to develop.
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.