The African Women Championships kicked off in Namibia yesterday as eight of the best female national football teams take on each other to compete for a place at the FIFA women’s World Cup in Canada next year.
While the continent enjoyed the spectacle kicking off, the host nation had put in a lot of work into planning and delivering the spectacle. Funding the event alone cost $8 million and Gabriel Sinimbo, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture describes the entire fund raising process as complicated. The national women’s league was suspended with all the funding diverted into the African Women Championships, projects were earmarked and discarded in line with re-budgeting all in a bid to ensure that kick-off was hitch free.
“We did not have a budget,” Sinimbo says. “And there were things that were not good with us as a ministry,” he added.
Regardless of these hurdles, Namibians will be pleased that the country is hosting the continent’s ladies having had three years to prepare since CAF announced that Namibia had been awarded the rights to host the tournament since 2011. As the tournament has only been hosted by South Africa, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea since inception in 1998, the rest of the continent were keen to seen how well Namibia will do as hosts.
For many Namibians and the local organizing committee, this was taken on as a test of their mettle to host future events- something they quietly hope to do. So far, they have made all the right noises and the right moves as they are quite keen to make an indelible impression.
“We are bankrolling this competition in millions. It’s a very expensive exercise,” says Sinimbo. “Government is responsible for everything, ranging from the teams’ transport and accommodation to ensuring that all facilities used for the championship were renovated and in good shape as per CAF specifications,” he furthers adds, with a tinge of patriotic pride.
And there was even more patriotic pride on Saturday as the Namibian female national team kicked things off in the opening fixture, and their first ever game at the African Women Championships, with a 2-0 in over Zambia at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek. Should they manage to reach the final and win the title as well as successfully host the tournament without hitches, 2014 could well go down as a year Namibians will never forget.