Despite the early elimination of the Lady Sparrowhawks from the TotalEnergies Maroc 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, the young women were able to influence the Togolese people through their determination during this first participation of Togo in the WAFCON. Their sacrifices, their commitment and their passion were not only readable, but also useful.
Even if today women’s football is no longer a taboo in countries like Togo, the participation of women in this game remains relatively low.
Among other reasons, we can also cite the persistence of old prejudices and especially the fact that the country had not been represented by women footballers in any continental or international competition. But since Togo qualified for the first time in their history for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, the mentality is changing.
This awakening emerges thanks to the great sacrifices of the women. They have shown determination while exposing to their compatriots and to all around the world, how much they need more support and talents in front of this ambition.
Togo was in the same group as Cameroon, ranked 2nd in Africa according to the FIFA ranking before the tournament, Tunisia (6th) and Zambia (13th).
However, The Togo team which occupied the 16th position in Africa, did not shake in front of any of these teams.
All the three competitions were marked by a relentless struggle of the Togolese until the last minutes of the games.
Before their first match, captain Nathalie Badate was questioned by a journalist during the press conference. The interviewer wanted to know who the player thought would win the cup. The midfielder did not hesitate to declare her team the favourite.
“For me, my country has the favorite team. So we’re going to give it our all. The other girls don’t have four heads. They each have one head, two feet and so do we,” said the Togolese player sitting left of her trainer, who at the same time, was nodding in agreement with the player while smiling.
However, in the first match, the Togolese team, inexperienced and reduced to ten, sank (4-1) against Tunisia.
The misery of Togolese women began very early. In less than twenty seconds of game, Tunisia made the difference. The first goal scored by the striker Mariem Houij in the first minute of the clash changed the tone of Togolese fans at Mohammed V Stadium.
The second goal came before a penalty opportunity was given to Odette Gnintegma in the 22nd minute. 2-1 in the first half, but the women of both sides did not give up.
The second part was marked by the second goal of Sabrine Ellouzi (60 ‘), Ella Djankale being sent off for denying Ellouzi a clear goalscoring opportunity in the 55th minute. In the 71st minute, the Togolese goalkeeper, Amé Amouklou will poorly protect a light shot from Mariem Houij which will end up crossing the line.
Again at the post-match press conference, Tomety maintained her determination, saying that “Togo has nothing to lose” at this WAFCON 2022.
“We lost the first match and we have to reorganize to face Cameroon and Zambia. We have seen Cameroon play, we have seen Zambia play and I am sure that we have arguments to be able to thwart the onslaught of Zambians and Cameroonians”.
“We have nothing to lose, we came to play, we will give the best of ourselves to be able to face the experienced teams,” the technician added.
The second game, against the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon, ended 1-1. An immense joy on the Togolese side against a team ranked second according to FIFA at the time.
They thus gave more comfort to their fans who were impatiently awaiting a first victory for Togo against Zambia three days later.
Unfortunately, Kaï Tomety’s girls lost the fight again. Already in the first minute of the game, they provoked a penalty which was saved by goalkeeper Lila A. Amouklou. The Zambians finally had a break in the 15th minute of the game and scored their first goal before doubling it 5 minutes later. Although Togo managed to reduce the burden before the first half, they lost again.
The coach could neither sit nor stand. With each mistake committed by her players, she held her head. A gesture that showed that the 48 year-old woman was obviously not ready to leave Morocco so soon. The final whistle sounded with Zambia winning 4-1.
The most interesting moments in the game were still the determination of the young Togolese women despite the broad domination of the opponent.
The convincing commitment
“We saw that when we returned home. People come more and more to watch the women’s championship matches and there is also more motivation from the players in the clubs. I have also noticed that in the private initiatives of tournament organization, we watch women’s matches in exhibition even for the small categories, “said the Togolese coach, Kaï Tomety recently during an interview with CAF online.
Indeed, this first participation of Togo in the Women’s AFCON has considerably changed the perception of a large number of people on women’s football.
Ms. Tomety did not even mention the women’s school championships which had experienced more atmosphere in recent months in all regions of Togo.
After these painful defeats, some dormant talents have decided to improve in order to serve the country in the next continental competitions. There has been various reactions from Togolese journalists and opinion leaders, who finally list the shortcomings in the management of women’s football in Togo.
According to Hon. Gerry Taama, a Member of the Togolese Parliament , “No one expected us to watch our girls” on the National Television “at 8 p.m. playing in a WAFCON this year. “The real merit is there. Many more seasoned teams failed but we were in the final stages.”
He finally underlined that there is “a physical freshness undoubtedly linked to the absence of a regular (women’s) championship in Togo”.
The national coach also admitted it to us: “we will have to organize the senior championship, a D2 championship for the U20s and also hold a competition for the U17s. We must also start with a policy at the U15 level. Because in women’s football as well as men’s, you have to start early to have a real succession.”