Shapwa ready to change women’s football

By Michael Uugwanga

NEWLY elected chairperson of the Namibia Women’s Football Association Monica Ndeshi Shapwa says her aim is to make women’s football more popular by ensuring the game is played in all corners of the country.

Namibia’s top flight women’s league, the Skorpion Zinc Namibian Football Association (NFA) Women’s Super League currently consists of 10 clubs: Tura Magic, Khomas NamPol, UNAM Bokkies, NUST Babes, Rightway, Galz and Goals, V-Power, Girls Football Academy (all Windhoek), Omaheke Queens from Gobabis and Namibia Daughters from Swakopmund.

Shapwa was appointed chairperson at the NFA’s Annual General Meeting in Windhoek in September.

In an interview with Confidente, she said her task is to create more awareness of the game in the regions and places where the women’s game has not been promoted, such as the capital, coast and east of the country.

She aims at “Increasing the level of female participation in football; to grow the game through our already existing structures, such as the Galz and Goals initiative, which is supported by UNICEF and FIFA; to get more girls involved in it earlier; to keep more women in the game longer;… to collaborate with [the line ministry and] Namibia Schools Sports Union (NSSU) in order to make women’s football compulsory in schools as part of their school sport codes.”

She further aims to “further leverage the empowerment of women and the collective benefits of football, to ensure that more women have increased access to football in regions all over Namibia.”

Women’s football is the fastest growing sport globally as investments and sponsorships are at unprecedented levels and the quality of talent evidenced at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France showed how quickly the game has evolved.

According to world football governing body, FIFA’s five-pronged Women’s Football Strategy has a stated goal of attracting 60 million talents by 2026, something that the Namibian women’s football desk is also working on in line with FIFA’s aim.

“We need to dedicate the same focus to creating new competitions that will provide additional opportunities for women to play,” for example the NFA Women’s Cup, League Cup and to have competitions in cluster regions such as the four O’s (Oshana, Ohangwena, Omusati and Oshikoto), as well as the southern and central regions. Of these “the top two will come together for regional championships, etc.”

She also encouraged regional structures to develop a five-year plan on how to advance women’s football in order to have a smooth transition from the Girls and Goals Project to the women’s league after the girl child graduates from the junior ranks.

She also hopes to “Create more awareness of the women’s game. We are also working on creating female teams to play as curtain-raisers to the Namibia Premier League (NPL) teams and to encourage media to air more of women’s football by really telling our story and how it can help with poverty alleviation and keeping the girl child off the street,” she said.

Asked why women football in Namibia has not grown as rapidly as in other parts of Africa, such as  neighbouring South Africa that just started with their professional women’s league this year, Shapua said it was mainly due to lack of leadership.

“We lacked leadership, good governance and management that is able to drive the women’s football agenda in the regions. I am however glad to say that the regions are coming on board. Oshana region, for example… are working hard to ensure that women’s football in their region is being played by putting up proper structures and reviving the region.

“I should however stress that this will only be possible if we have the funding needed to realise this dream. I am therefore calling on the corporate world to come on board and assist us in realising that dream as the government alone cannot do it.”

The senior women’s team has never qualified for major tournaments such as the World Cup, Olympic Games or the Africa Women Cup of Nations. Namibia’s only participation in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations was when the country hosted the event in 2014.

Shapua said as chairperson she hopes to see Namibia compete against the best female football nations, but that will come when proper structures are in place.

“One of my dreams is to see our Brave Gladiators qualifying for major tournaments in Africa, to appoint a full-time head coach with the assistance of the mother body (NFA) by strengthening our existing partnerships with Skorpion Zinc, UNICEF and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), ensuring that the NFA Girls Centre is fully occupied by talented girls and becomes a self-generating project by renting out the facilities, as well as establishment of an annual NFA Cup competition.

She further aims to revive the Westphalia German partnership and appoint a full-time women’s football development officer as per Confederation of African Football (CAF) requirements. “If we want to grow we need to start taking part in such competitions as it will give our young girls an opportunity to go out there and compete amongst the best in Africa,” Shapwa said.