Ghana was a pioneer of women’s soccer in Africa and always seemed to be a continental powerhouse during the Black Queens’ early years.
After playing in its first international competition in 1991, the brave and skilled team enjoyed a successful first decade with players such as Alberta Sackey, Genevieve Clottey and Adjoa Bayor.
After finishing runners-up in three of the first five editions of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon), the Black Queens also qualified for three consecutive World Cups.
“When we started women’s football here in Ghana, many countries hadn’t started yet,” Habiba Atta, who founded the country’s first women’s club and led the birth of the national team, told BBC Sport Africa. Told.
“It was after we started that other people caught up.”
Ghana failed to win major silverware, but supporters found solace in the team’s style of play.
However, the Ghana Football Association (GFA) failed to harness the momentum or build a strong team structure and after 2008 began to perform poorly on the continental stage.
A 3rd place finish at Wafcon in 2016 was the highlight of their 4 out of 5 group stage eliminations, one of which was at home in 2018.
Morocco, current Wafcon holder South Africa, Zambia, and others have all invested heavily in women’s football in recent years, so Queens is set to recall its former glory in solace.
After losing to arch-rivals Nigeria in the qualifiers, Ghana missed out on this year’s Wafcon in Morocco (which will determine qualification for the Women’s World Cup), so they will miss next year’s finals in Australia and New Zealand. I will be absent.
The question is, where did Ghana go wrong in building on the foundation that Atta imposed?
Coaching changes and scandals
“The problem is that the authorities don’t believe in continuity,” Isaac Paha, who coached with the Black Queens from 2004 to 2008, told BBC Sport Africa.
“Once they reach a certain level, they bring in another person to take over. As a coach, when you take a team and start preparing young players to join, you have a better chance of pushing them forward than a new coach. I notice that.”
In the final year of Paha’s term, the GFA appointed Graham Potter, now manager of Premier League club Chelsea, as Black Queens’ technical director.
“He was made to believe he was going to take over and challenged my coaching style,” Paha claimed.
Despite Potter’s addition, Ghana suffered heavy losses to Australia, Canada and Norway in the 2007 World Cup, and Paha was sacked six months after the tournament in China.
Ghana has not played in a World Cup final since.
According to Paha, the GFA made few provisions for incoming national coaches and did not provide a report on the coaching style, structure, or philosophy of his predecessor, but the GFA said coaches should participate. You answered that you should create a report for each tournament and then make recommendations.
After two years as an assistant coach while Ghana failed to qualify for the 2012 Wafcon, Yusif Basigi became the head coach of the Black Queens in 2013.
After leading the team to the All Africa Games title in 2015 and finishing third at Wafcon in 2016, he was surprisingly sacked the following March.
“Sometimes I’ve been in training camps for a long time, but I wasn’t given the platform I needed in an international friendly,” Basij said.
A GFA spokesperson noted that the Black Queens have played in the 2020 Turkish Women’s Cup and the September 2021 Aishab Khali Cup before facing Morocco ahead of this year’s Wafcon.
A spokesperson said: “We have done our best in at least four high-profile friendlys over the last two years. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to bring the team to Wafcon.”
Major scandals – the bonus low at the 2014 men’s World Cup and the revelation of Anas Alemeyau Anas’ number 12 jersey in 2018 – have also turned Queens’ way upside down.
In the first instance, after the Blackstars threatened to boycott their final group match, the Ghanaian government transferred more than $3 million in cash to Brazil, exposing GFA officials’ corruption four years later.
The scandal had a domino effect on all aspects of football in the country, including grassroots, development and leagues, but pay equity on the women’s side was also a topic of long-running debate.
Queen’s performance bonuses for 2015 and 2016 remained undecided for several years. The player’s passion for the national badge was even slightly undermined by the unfulfilled promise.
In 2020, the team protested to Ghana’s Ministry of Sports, threatening to sleep at the facility and boycott the national game if $12,000 in outstanding debt was not paid.
After a series of protests by the team, the money was finally paid.
Black Queens will not see growth without a hierarchy of youth football structures in place, but Habiba Atta believes the GFA is moving forward.
“This current GFA [administration] Women’s football is doing amazingly well compared to football so far,” she told BBC Africa Sport.
But disappointments and humiliations still abound.
In July, the African Football Confederation (Caf) convicted Ghana of misappropriating an under-17 age, banning the Black Maidens from the next two editions of the U17 Women’s World Cup and giving the GFA 100,000 fined a dollar.
Ghana failed to reach the knockout stages for the sixth time in a row at this year’s U20 World Cup in Costa Rica.
The Black Princess squad was without captain Evelyn Badu, who suffered an injury during training, but the forward said preparations were far from ideal.
“My absence affected the tactical ability of my team-mates,” Badu told BBC Sport Africa.
“I don’t want to compare the women’s game to the Blackstars, but we all know how we are treated. Women’s football is sophisticated both tactically and technically. is needed.
“We were in camp for four months to prepare for the qualifying rounds, but we weren’t able to play a single international friendly. I fought both sides.”
After what Badu described as an “uphill battle” to beat Zambia in the first qualifier, they lost 4–1 to France in their only senior friendly before heading to Costa Rica.
“I believe we need to have a series of international friendly matches for the national team before they go to major competitions, otherwise the players will get rusty,” Badu said. added.
Badu was a starring role in Hacircus Ladies’ run to the final of the inaugural Women’s African Champions League last year, but the club failed to qualify for the second edition in Morocco last month. Ampem Darcoa Ladies also missed out.
On the bright side, the Ghana Women’s Premier League is taking shape, with new broadcasts and sponsorship deals.
There are many possible reasons for the collapse of an international legacy, including the GFA and the government of Ghana appearing to have failed women’s football.
A GFA spokesperson said it was committed to paying more attention to the grassroots game, while a technical office was set up to propose solutions to the challenges facing various national sides.
The future hangs by a delicate thread as we wait for the GFA to truly commit the time and resources to reclaim their once revered status as the Black Queens.