African women's football has its established powers; Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon. But could the little known Malawi’s women’s soccer team one day qualify for a World Cup?
That possibility has been raised by Football Association of Malawi (FAM) President Walter Nyamilandu. While it’s certainly an optimistic view (Malawi are currently ranked 134 out of 140), his comments are an important show of support for the women’s game.
“We’ve gone past teaching them how to control and shoot the ball," said Nyamilandu.
"Who knows, maybe the women can help us go to the World Cup quicker than the men.”
As with many other nations, sponsorship struggles have hugely impacted the state of the women’s game in the southeast African country. So much so that Severia Chalira, President of the National Women’s Football Committee, recently pleaded for corporate funding, saying that women’s football has been left languishing.
While grassroots participation is a key factor in developing a national sporting team, it’s often the attitude and assistance from a governing body that ultimately decides its prosperity.
FAM is certainly saying all the right things, but needs to now back that up with action by doing everything it can to create a strong national league – which is often a blueprint for international success.
It’s a task that’s not as straightforward as it seems. While FAM officials talk up the game, there are claims that the association hasn’t been using its FIFA grant effectively, spending far less on women’s football than the US$112,000 it was allocated by FIFA.
However, despite the financial woes, a recent FIFA profile of the women’s national squad is brimming with optimism and enthusiasm - with good reason.
The national side recently returned to world football with a friendly against Tanzania last November, after an extended absence due to a lack of funding.
The match saw it re-enter world rankings, and re-enter the world football conversation. There is now talk of future friendlies.
Off the pitch Malawi, who also has two head female referees, has made a push for more women to coach the sport.
This is all promising news and hopefully a sign of good things to come for women's football in Malawi.