QUEENS DROPPING IN AFRICA’S PECKING ORDER?

Gone were the days when the Black Queens were a fortress when it comes to women’s football in Africa. Though they did not match up with countries like Norway, USA, Sweden and co when it comes to the world stage, trust them to be second to Nigeria anytime talk is made about women’s football on this continent. Unfortunately, this status seems to be going down the gurgler. The earlier we wrote and talked about their waning strength the better for us all. In a sense, their fate seems to be following the same path of the Black Stars some time back. Yes, the Black Stars were a force to reckon with in the 1960’s and 1970’s. During that period the Black Stars won a record back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations titles in 1963 and 1965. Unfortunately, it took over ten years for them to win their next title. Talk has been bandied about that in those times the strong footballing nations in Africa were few and so when the numbers began to double, the Black Stars faded in glory. Well, could it be the reason why the team is yet to win the Africa Cup of Nations title since that 1982 triumph in Libya? They have reached the finals on two occasions since then though.

Since the introduction of the Africa Women’s Championships in 1991, Ghana’s Black Queens have consistently qualified for the finals. On top of that, they have made a record final appearance with the Super Falcons in the tournament three times but South Africa, Cameroon and now Equatorial Guinea have dislodged them.

Notwithstanding, the senior national women’s soccer team made it to the world cup on three consecutive occasions after their debut in 1999. The team tends to lose to superior opponents in attempts to represent Africa since the introduction of women’s football into the Olympics. For example, in qualifying for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Queens had the rare opportunity of playing against Brazil in a play-off in Beijing China. They lost 3-0 to the former world champions.

Bucking the trend

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be bucking against the Black Queens. They lost qualification for the London 2012 Olympics to lowly-ranked Ethiopia. They have also disappointingly failed to make it to the Africa Women’s Championship to be held in Equatorial Guinea later this year. Before this, there was a harbinger at the 2010 edition in South Africa where they failed to make it from the group stage and, as a result, failing to make the cut for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Germany. The excuse the team tabled was that, in one of their matches, precisely that against Equatorial Guinea, ‘men’ were featured against them. They claimed the Guinean number 8 Salimata Simpore and two other players were hermaphrodite. It was neither here nor there. It was a wake-up call that they were losing their consistent second-to-Nigeria status to the likes of Equatorial Guinea. Indeed, it has now come to full glare as Cameroon, hard as they found it though, beat the Queens to qualify for the finals of the continent’s most prestigious women’s tournament.

Solution

There should be a conscious effort to bring Black Queens back to their glory. To a large extent, the senior players should be retired. How can there still be a player, who was part of the USA 1999 World Cup squad in the team. It is only going to create a crevice in the team’s armour. Luckily, the 2008 Black Maidens squad, who played in the first edition of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, has matured into a formidable squad. No wonder, when qualification for the 2011 All Africa Games became tough for the Black Queens, they were brought in, then in the Black Princesses camp, to rescue their seniors. This shows that a good job can be done if that same team is promoted en masse to the senior team.

Ghana vs Cameroon

I happen to see the Cameroonian national team in their hotel while they were here for that first leg. They looked ordinary and dull to the extent that I tweeted that if Ghana were to take that game serious, Cameroon will go down by a large margin. Unfortunately, the match turned out differently as our ladies continued to miss begging chances at the Accra Sports Stadium and had to recover from a goal don to draw 1-1. The goal conceded by Ghana was solely the goalkeeper’s fault after she failed to handle the ball firmly. It was after the exit was staring them in the face that they went to Yaounde with fangs out. They had to camp in Ethiopia and source out the services of Coach Oti Akenteng.

Princesses

The Black Queens are down and out now. There should not be any resort to the drawing board as the solutions are already dangling before us all – the Black Princesses can do the job. As a result, after they return from the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Japan later this year, they should be made to say adieu to the team and sent straight to form the core of the Black Queens. If there is not the courage to retire those senior players, they should be made to start from the bench all the time the Queens play.

By Kwame