The true impact of FIFA funding into Africa is now showing its value. During the 11th iteration of the COSAFA Women’s Championship in South Africa, Malawi made history by winning the competition for the first time. FIFA have invested $1,000,000 USD annually since 2017 and more recently have added $250,000 to that figure.
Malawi’s maiden victory at the COSAFA is true testament to the growing level of women’s football in Southern Africa. The most recent COSAFA saw the likes of 2023 World Cup nations Zambia and South Africa compete. The fact they did not dominate the competition, speaks volumes to the inherent quality involved.
COSAFA secretary general Sue Destombes went on record to talk about specifically how much the FIFA investment has made a difference to the region.
“This development is largely due to FIFA’s Forward grant to the Zonal Unions and the ability to organise consistent annual tournaments,” she said.
“COSAFA is very happy with the year-on-year improvement in the level of play. This year we have seen a marked improvement by Malawi and Mozambique, as well as Eswatini and Lesotho.”
There is now an “ongoing commitment” from FIFA to continue investing in COSAFA in a pledge that should see growth carry over, year-on-year. It shows further willingness from FIFA to professionalise women’s football within its member states in Southern Africa.
On the outcomes of the investment programme from FIFA, Solomon Mudege who is currently head of programme development in Africa, stated: “We are proud that the FIFA Forward programme continues to contribute to women’s football development in the COSAFA region. The 2023 edition of the COSAFA Women’s Championship lived up to its elite status. With all 12 teams performing well and new stars announcing themselves on the international stage.”
The ‘FIFA Forward’ programme was initially introduced in 2016 and is currently in its third chapter, which started in January 2023. The reason behind its creation was to properly equip its member nations. Specifically those with limited financial strength in order to give the ability to provide its women’s and youth teams.
“When we launched the FORWARD development programme, FIFA embarked upon a new era of global football development that is now heading into its third cycle,” FIFA president, Gianni Infantino recapped earlier in 2023.
“It is vital that we are now strengthening our commitment to building a stronger foundation for the growth of football.”
There was also a strong commitment to ensuring the funds would be used responsibly and transparently.