Zimbabwe Women’s Football has begun an extensive consultative process to craft an exhaustive strategic plan for the years 2020-2023. This is in response to renewed focus on the women’s game exhibited by the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA), the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA).
Asked why the exercise is critical in the development of women’s football, administrator Theresa Maguraushe said, “In unison with the goals of both CAF and FIFA, the major concern to be underscored in the plan is increasing participation in all areas of the game.
This applies to both playing and non-playing staff, including administration.
Women’s football structures at the moment include an elite league that is made up of 16 teams and then there are four regional leagues whose annual champions are promoted to the Zimbabwe Women Soccer League.
Provincial leagues which were set up in the early 2000s have since gone bust, a development which has drastically reduced playing opportunities for many girls.
Low participation is a historical ill that emanates from the perception that physical activities were a preserve for males, but over the years, women have proven that they can play the game.
From inception, local women’s football has depended on the broader vision of the Zimbabwe Football Association, but all that is set to change as stakeholders the word over are directing more resources towards development of women’s football.
COSAFA was set to organise its first tournament for under-17 girls in 2020 before covid-19 disruptions, having successfully staged the inaugural Under-20 edition in 2019. CAF also increased participants of the Africa Women Cup of Nations to twelve from eight. The 2023 edition of the FIFA World Cup will be played by 32 teams, eight more than those in the 2019 event.
Local women’s football was recently allocated 500 000 USD by FIFA as the world football aristocracy sought to relieve the game from financial distress wrought by covid-19. In the absence of investors, the financial injection is set to provide a springboard for the game.
The funding is a boon for many if not all clubs, especially those owned by individuals, and were already struggling to go by even before the covid-19 pandemic. Even though funding for the women’s game is generally low, teams funded or owned by national security services, tertiary institutions and established men’s teams were the envy of many others owned by individuals.
The senior women’s team is the only football team in the country to qualify for a major global event, the Rio 2016 Olympics. Post 2016, the team has struggled to replicate the performances which took it to the top.
The dereliction of development structures has been as the drawback since little or no grassroots development has been taking place over the years. Resuscitation of provincial structures is also among the broad objectives to be listed in order to increase participation nationwide.
While other countries from the region continue to sell players to leagues in the Americas, Asia and Europe, very little commercial activity has happened since Rutendo Makore’s stint with Sporting Huelva in the Liga Feminina ended in 2018.
FIFA led the way in crafting a strategic plan termed ‘Women’s Football Strategy’ and CAF recently published its own blueprint with the same name and harmonised objectives with the former.
The local strategic plan is expected to be complete by end of October 2020.