Why Africa′s women footballers have a tougher game | Africa | DW | 12.06.2015
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Why Africa's women footballers have a tougher game

Two African teams are playing in the FIFA Women's World Cup on Friday (12.06.2015): Nigeria and Cameroon. African women's football has performed poorly in previous tournaments. DW's Sam Olukoya finds out why.

Some blame the poor state of African women's football in general for the continent's lackluster performance at international tournaments.

20-year-old professional footballer Igmemeka Ike has been playing since the age of 15. She said the main difficultly women footballers face in Nigeria is the shortage of funds caused by a dearth of sponsors.

Ike believes that if the women were lavished with the same attention that the men receive then many more girls would take up the sport.

"If you watch some tournaments in the game you will see that the girls are doing much better than the boys, but the finance they are giving to the girls is very poor," she said.

Nigeria Frauenfußball FC Robo

FC Robo say their game is hamstrung by cultural stereotypes

Exhausted on arrival

In Mushin, a suburb of Lagos, FC Robo players, who play in Nigeria's Women's Premier League, are training on a water-logged pitch. The lack of funding robs them of even the most basic amenities. The team does have a bus, but it is a very old, slow-moving vehicle. Sometimes they have to travel through the night to reach the venue for an away match. They often arrive so late that there's no time for sleep or rest.

FC Robo's coach Emmanuel Osahon said cultural factors have inhibited the development of women's football in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

"Africa is the kind of place in which women are less favored. All of us believe that a woman's place is in the kitchen so male football grew faster in Africa than female football because we are implementing traditional culture," he said.

Nigeria's football authorities say they are taking steps to educate people about women's football. Parents, they suggest, need reassurance that no harm will come to their daughters if they take up the game. Amaju Pinnick, president of the Nigerian Football Federation said you have to talk to the parents.

Kanada FIFA Frauen Weltmeisterschaft Deutschland vs. Elfenbeinküste

Germany beat Ivory Coast 10-0 at the FIFA Women's World Cup on June 7

"You have to make them understand that they [the daughters] will be taken care of. Nobody will be molested, nobody will be violated, you have to make them understand all those things," he said.

Overseas experience

DW sports correspondent Andre Leslie said historically African nations simply haven't been in the final stages of the FIFA Women's World Cup and there is a lack of high level tournament experience.

"It's really hard to create that overnight so probably the best way is to get these players playing in the USA or in Europe - leagues in Sweden or the US college leagues. They are amazing for women's football and they are really an exciting way for people to learn high level football that they may not have in their own countries," he said.

Leslie also said it would be a good idea to get more sponsorship money into women's football in Africa.

It is possible that one of Nigeria's biggest challenges may - indirectly and unwittingly - come to the aid of women's football.

With the Islamist group Boko Haram deploying female suicide bombers, many believe the government has to step up programs that can empower women. One such program would be backing women's football.