The Crested Cranes on Wednesday departed for Marrakech, Morocco, for a weeklong training camp ahead of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) due July 2- 23.
The women’s national football team qualified for the biennial showpiece after Kenya pulled out in the last phase of the qualifiers. They are placed in Group A alongside the hosts Morocco, Burkina Faso, and Senegal.
This is the second time the team is taking part in the tournament following their appearance in South Africa in 2000.
The team arrived in Morocco after a stellar performance at the Cecafa Senior Women’s Championship in Njeru where on June 11, they defeated Burundi 3-1 to lift the regional title.
The return to the bigger stage is an achievement worth celebrating especially since their male counterparts, The Cranes, had a few days earlier picked up their first point from a possible six in their bid to qualify for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The draw against Niger at St Mary’s Stadium Kitende drew the ire of fans who have for long followed The Cranes even with several abysmal performances.
But now there is something to cheer about and the women deserve all the support – moral and financial – that the men have been receiving.
That the Crested Cranes are in Morocco is not by mistake. The Federation of Uganda Football Associations (Fufa) has been at the forefront of nurturing women football through various programmes. The Fufa Women Elite League and the Fufa Women’s Cup all played at a high level are testament to growth of women’s football in the country.
However, over time, the Cranes have received the lion’s share of budgetary allocations despite Fufa’s support of nine other national teams. The excuse has always been that Uganda Cranes, as the flagship brand- attracts more sponsorship.
Little wonder, the Crested Cranes jetted out of the country without any fanfare. Fufa often goes back to the 2016 Farouk Miya goal against Comoros that took Uganda Cranes back to the continent after 39 years. The goal has had a huge impact and brand of football around the country. At district, regional and national level – the awareness from 2016 to-date is immense. There has been an increase in partnerships and sponsorships – small and big – for various clubs across the country.
This has brought about a huge difference in remuneration of national team players but the disparity in allowances and bonuses still exists. This has to change.
The corporate entities that often want to be seen associating with the men’s team should also dig deep into their pockets and lend the Crested Cranes a helping hand. Fans who have hobnobbed with the Cranes even at their lowest should render their voices to this, and many more of the women’s campaigns. Above all, the government should not wait for the players to return to sing their praises. Because these players need more than that.
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