The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has unveiled the official plans and format for the first ever women's Champions League expected to kick off in 2021.
During a zoom meeting held on September 8 and hosted by former Ghanaian international and current Caf Deputy Secretary General, Anthony Baffoe, it was agreed that qualifiers would be played across all Caf's regions.
Each of the Caf zones including Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (Cecafa), Council of South African Football Association (Cosafa), Union of Football Federations of Central Africa (UNIFFAC), West African Football Union (Wafu) and Union of North African Football Association (UNAF) will organise qualifiers that will produce the six top teams.
Afterwards, two other teams will be added with one from the host and the other from the combined Caf zones tournaments' best loser, arriving at a total of eight teams. The final eight teams will then be divided into two groups of four teams each for a face off for the Champions League title
The competition lays within Caf’s four-year women’s football strategic plan, which was launched in collaboration with Fifa last November in Egypt.
According to Cecafa Secretary General, Auka Gacheo, the new competition is definitely a milestone for women's football in Africa, stating that it will be a great platform for better opportunities, especially for the upcoming players who will highly benefit from the exposure.
"We are awaiting for the return to formula guidelines so that we can plan ahead on the dates for the Cecafa women's contest that will determine who goes to the Caf Champions League and all other tournaments under Cecafa as well.
"Currently it is very difficult to plan with different countries operating on different levels of safety and precaution due to the coronavirus, but we are all hoping to get to a levelled ground when it comes to the future of the games," he said.
Auka added that the continental competition should get the states participating to raise their football standards high especially in the local leagues and tournaments so that the Champions League gets well exposed and experienced players.
Unlike the men's Caf Champions league which has been around for the last 23 years, the women's debut League will not be played on a home and away format. The teams will however all meet together at the host country for a group and knock-out competition.
However, during the virtual meeting attended by various players and coaches from different countries, the Caf officials did not state any prize money awards for the women's league. This already creates a big gap compared to the men's league where the winner takes home a whooping US$2.5 Million (Sh 250 million) raising the question of lack of equal pay for women.
Football Kenya Federation (FKF) Communication manager, Ken Okaka, hinted that three-time league champions Vihiga Queens could fly the country's flag in the Cecafa event.
"Although we cannot officially confirm now since the competition will be held in the second half of 2021, it is obvious that the most likely team to be picked to represent Kenya in the qualifiers of the first ever Caf women's Champions League is Vihiga Queens," said Okaka.
If Vihiga Queens manage to get past their usual rivals like Uganda’s champions UCU Lady Cardinals and Rwanda''s AS Kigali in the regional qualifiers, they will have to tighten their boots when they go against the likes of South Africa's Mamelodi Sundowns among other continental giants.
“With the Covid-19 numbers going down, we hope that this will give us a chance to start intense team training as we prepare for the continental league. Ever since we heard the news, the girls have been particularly excited about not only getting to play outside the country, but also broadening their professional skills not just on the pitch, but all round grooming," said Alex Alumirah, Vihiga Queens coach.
Despite the different challenges presented by the pandemic, Kenya’s women football has had an impressive year with at least seven players moving to European clubs.