by Agnes Amondi
The Chairperson of the CAF Organizing Committee for Women’s Football Isha Johanssen has explained CAF’s decision to cancel the 2020 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
In a wide ranging interview made available to soka25east, Johanssen defended the decision as she stated that it was reached after extensive consultations with all options explored.
“For the 2020 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, there were circumstances beyond our control which made it difficult for Caf to organize it and all options were explored but to no avail.”
The CAF official, who also doubles up as the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) President also explained that logistical dilemmas contributed largely to the cancellation of the event.
In July 2019, Congo Brazzaville withdrew as hosts citing financial difficulties. CAF then approached South Africa to take up the mantle but its federation, SAFA turned down the opportunity. Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea emerged as interested parties to host the tournament but Johanssen explained that they (CAF) didn’t receive support documents from both governments hence the process stalled.
“We did not have an option other than to cancel for three main reasons. Firstly, the withdrawal of Congo meant that we find a new host. For that, the bid was reopened. Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea expressed interest. However, both lacked the most important support documents which were the letters of support from their respective governments.” she continued.
“If you cannot get a letter of support from your government to host a tournament, it becomes quite complex and problematic in the long run because we cannot organise the competition without the support or guarantee from the host country coming from the government.
Johanssen went on: “Secondly, the outbreak of Covid-19 which has led to the suspension of all football activities around the continent and indeed the rest of the world. Due to that fact, the qualifiers initially scheduled for April 2020 had to be postponed indefinitely. Since AWCON is a senior competition, we could only schedule the matches based on the Fifa calendar dates which were also affected by Covid-19. That left us with two window opportunities – September and October for qualifiers.”
“Third, the closure of borders across the continent. It was very unlikely we will be able to honour these matches within these window opportunity dates taking into consideration the travel restrictions. We also have the U17 and U20 Women’s World Cup qualifiers which have to be completed this year.”
“These are options that we went over and over again to see how best we could accommodate but we just couldn’t. For the shock news to fans, I understand how disappointing this could be but again everyone needs to understand that it is based on the current global situation.” Johanssen examined.
At the same time, she rubbished claims that CAF were reluctant to find a better solution for the primed event. In the immediate aftermath of the decision, four time CAF Women’s Footballer of the year Asisat Oshoala, through her social media pages, released a scathing statement as she expressed her disappointment with the decision. “Thanks for letting us know that Women’s football isn’t important to you” Oshoala posted. But Johanssen sees it differently.
“It’s not the case of not being able to meet all the expectations of people or that we just decided to take an easy way out to cancel the women’s AFCON 2020 just because it’s women’s football. It is because of some very obvious reasons totally beyond our control,” she opined.
“It’s got nothing to do with another agenda other than the fact that we simply cannot hold the competition during abnormal times that we have now. CAF as you know and may not, has even allocated some substantial amount to support to the host country to stage the final tournament. However, no country is being forthcoming yet because of the COVID-19 which has disrupted every single economy in the world.”
“You cannot impose a competition on a country to host if they are not ready. It has to be a collective decision and it also has to be organised under conducive circumstances. No country is operating under normal circumstances. These are abnormal times.”
The President of the SLFA further reiterated CAF’s support for women’s football and are looking forward to our up a well organised tournament in 2022.
“Women’s football means a lot to CAFand we take pride, not only in the fact that we have women’s football on our calendar but also the fact that we are actually facing these challenges head-on,” she said.
“When we do host these competitions, you want your current competition to outdo the last one and get one better than the other. Ghana was a hugely successful competition. Therefore, why host something that is going to be probably limited or second-best or really not good at all only to be criticized as to why did we go ahead with knowing full well there were challenges?” She posed.
“I think that it is best that we leave it as it is. We still monitor and plan for better days ahead. We are planning and at the same time, we have been looking for the host of the 2022 AWCON which will also serve as the qualifier for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Even though the decision is not good news, of course, it gives us time to reflect and plan.” Johanssen reflected.