Competitions and governance are key to women's football success in Africa, says Sarai Bareman

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Samuel Ahmadu/Goal
The Fifa official believes creation of more football events and improved organisation will help the women's game thrive on the continent

Fifa chief women's football officer Sarai Bareman says the creation of more competitions and good governance will be paramount to the success of women's football in Africa.

Bareman who was on the Women's World Cup tour to South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon in April, as the continent's flagbearers to this summer's showpiece in France.

The former Samoa internationa admits that the continent is endowed with talents, but feels there are a lot to fundamental problems to fix before the quality of the women's game can be improved.

"There are so many potentials in Africa anytime I visit one of the African countries, you can just feel it," Bareman told Goal.

"I really feel so strongly that if we can get it right on this continent, we will see more and more the likes of the Super Falcons, who are qualifying for the Women's World Cup and other Fifa World Cup events. 

"But there is a lot of work to be done. I have to be honest. I think there's no magic formula, there is no one pale that we can drop and can fix everything. We really need to address the entire eco-system of the game here. 

"I mean we've got to look at the governance structure - who is in charge and looking after women's football in each of these countries? Do they have a voice in the executive committee and decision-making bodies? 

"We have to look at the development, grassroots football and schools and how are we attracting girls into our sports and once they are there, what are we doing to keep them there? Another big thing that I think is very important and the key to Africa's success is the competitions."

Sarai Bareman - Fifa

Twenty-four countries entered the Tokyo 2020 African Women's Olympic qualifiers - the highest-ever number of participating nations in history.

Bareman, though, is concerned by the poor turnouts in African qualifying tournaments, but have shed light on Fifa's support strategy in an attempt to encourage participation at the regional level.

"We've done a lot of analysis on the qualification path to Fifa competitions and the statistics are terrible and the number of teams participating in the women's qualifiers is really low and often they might play one or two games and pull out," she continued. 

"So, we have to look at what is happening and why is that happening? Is the format of the competitions that are in a place conducive for the teams to compete? So, competitions will really be a game changer if we can get that right in Africa. 

"The pathway has to really start from young and if we want to build the best national teams and have the best chances at the Women's World Cups, we really need to make sure that every player that's in the national team has followed a clear pathway from the moment they've entered into the game. 

"Fifa is now giving funding to the regional associations of the confederations - I know Caf, for example, has six regions - there is Cosafa in the south, Cecafa and other different regional associations. Part of the criteria for funding we give them is that they must organise women and youth competitions and that's something we're following quite closely with them.

"For me, the more active the national teams are, it means the pathway of underneath those national teams is also activated and if the teams are playing regularly, It means the academies need to run more regularly and the national leagues too. So the whole pathway is activated.

Sarai Bareman - Fifa

She further tasked the leadership of Caf and national associations to show more passion and strategic plans to boost the women's game.

"I feel quite hopeful about what Caf is doing about women's football. They've created for the first time a specific department for women's football and appointed some competent people," she continued.

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"Caf also has new people like Anthony Baffoe, who was a former player himself and knows a lot about football obviously from being an ex-international and very supportive of the women's game and the women's department is within his area. 

"We've had conversations as well on what we can do to improve it. I do feel optimistic and also think there is a need for a concerted effort from every level.

"It can be the people on the ground who are working on women's football every day - we know they are doing a good job but it's the people above them - the management, the executive committees, the presidents and the general secretaries."

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