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The Week In Women’s Football: India triumphs at SAFF; Nigeria win 8th Women’s AFCON; Toledo Ohio link with Aston Villa

We review some regional national team tournaments over the past few months, including the Southeast Asian Football Federation (SAFF) and the African Women's Cup of Nations (AFCON).

We also talk to the General Manager of a new UWS side for this summer in Toledo Ohio that has a relationship with Aston Villa and we discuss the recent Canadian Soccer Association allocated players to NWSL for 2017.

India again triumphs at the South Asian Football Federation Finals

The South Asian Football Federation held its fourth edition of their women's regional finals from December 26, 2016 through January 4, 2017. Host India won its fourth consecutive title as host, defeating Bangladesh 3-1 in the final. All games were held at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri, West Bengal. In Group A, Nepal went undefeated with an 18-0 goals for/goals against record over the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. In Group B, Bangladesh and India tied with 1 win and 1 tie, both defeating Afghanistan, who had a 1-11 goals for/goals against posting. Afghanistan, using a mix of local players and diaspora in Europe and North America, were coached by former Sky Blue FC head coach Kelly Lindsey, a former U.S. national team player who coached Sky Blue FC for a short time in 2009 in WPS. Pakistan was scheduled to participate in the tournament in Group B but withdrew late due to political conflict with the federation at home. For Pakistan team coach Tariq Lutfi, withdrawals from national team tournaments—of which this was not the first incident—are hampering the growth of the game in his country: “The federation should not commit to playing tournaments if they have to pull out later. The girls should gather for training frequently but the lack of footballing activity has put almost a permanent stop to their development." Team captain Hajra Khan added: “The women's team gets one international tour in two years and it's a pity that the team will not be participating in it. The team wasn't even sent for the South Asian Games earlier this year. (To be fair, it has happened of late for men's national teams as well). In the semifinals, India beat Nepal 3-1 and Bangladesh blasted the Maldives 6-0, before falling to India 3-1 in the final.

Nepal's forward Sabitra Bhandari, who plays for the Armed Police Force club at home, scored 12 goals during the tournament, including 6 in the Group A opener against Bhutan (8-0) and then 5 in the next game versus the Maldives (9-0). A distant second was Bangladesh's captain and forward Sabina Khatun with six goals. Her teammate, 15-year-old Sirat Jahan Shopna, scored five goals including Bangladesh's lone goal in the final game loss to India. Maldives's Fadhuwa Zahir also had five goals. Two of India's players tied for fifth on 3 goals: longtime national team and Indian Railway's Sasmita Malik—who scored the winner in the final—and Yumnam Devi.

Nigeria defeat Cameroon 1-0 to take their 8th African Women's Cup of Nations Title

Nigeria made it eight out of ten African Women's Cup of Nations titles when they defeated host Cameroon last month 1-0 in Yaounde, Cameroon, on Desire Oparanozie's (Guingamp of France) goal late in the match. The tournament was held from November 19 thru December 3 in Cameroon; the nation were fantastic hosts, attracting 40,000 fans to the final, with more watching at three designated CAF fan zones. The Washington Spirit and Sydney FC forward Francisca Ordega, who has played in Russia, Sweden and at home at the young age of 23, was on the side and scored one goal. Asisat Oshoala of Arsenal won the golden boot with six goals, four coming in their first match, a 6-0 win over Mali. Other notable Nigerian players in Europe included: Ngpzo Okobi (Vittsjo FC, Sweden), Ngozi Ebere (PSG, France) and Evelyn Nwabuoku (Guingamp, France).

In Group A, Cameroon won all three games while South Africa finished second on 4 points, 1 point ahead of Egypt and 3 points ahead of Zimbabwe, who drew with their Southern African neighbors 1-1. In Group B, Nigeria pipped Ghana for first with a superior goal difference (+10 to +4) after both teams finished with two wins and a deadlock (a 1-1 tie between the traditional West African women's soccer powers). Mali defeated Kenya for their only points of the tournament. In the semifinals, Cameroon defeated Ghana 1-0 and Nigeria dispatched South Africa 1-0. Ghana defeated South Africa for third place 1-0.

Oshoala was named African Women's Player of the year for the second time, ahead of Cameroon's Gabrielle Aboudi-Onguene, who plays in Russia with Rossiyanka, and Ghana's Elizabeth Addo, who plays with Kvarnsvedensik in Sweden's Damallsvenskan. Addo played in Serbia and Hungary before moving to Sweden last summer.

UWS adds 6th Midwest team for summer in Toledo Ohio

The UWS announced last week that Toledo (Ohio) Villa Football Club (TVFC) will play in the new Midwest Conference of United Women's Soccer (UWS) in the 2017 summer season. TVFC joins Detroit Sun F.C., F.C. Indiana, Fort Wayne United F.C., Grand Rapids F.C. and Michigan Legends F.C. in the new Conference. Toledo is a sizeable metropolitan area of 600,000, located an hour's drive south of Detroit, Michigan, but which has never had a semiprofessional women's team. Their most recognizable former resident is Colombian international centerback and captain Natalia Gaitan, who played four years at the University of Toledo. Toledo Villa will play at Northview High School Stadium (500) in suburban Sylvania.

Director of Soccer Operations and General Manager David Hebestreit told Tribal says that the team wants to meet the demand of both men's and women's higher level 4th division soccer in Northwestern Ohio. TVFC has an official partnership with Aston Villa F.C. of the EFL and FAWSL-2 to further enhance its pipeline to the professional ranks. This was developed by Pacesetters Soccer Club (the top local youth organization and one of the catalysts behind the UWS team) Director of Coaching Jimmy Walker, who played and coached at Aston Villa.

No head coach has been named yet, though the team is in the interviewing process and should have an announcement in the coming weeks. The assistant coach for the women's team is Danny Fisher, who is originally from Stafford, England. Fisher coached Walsall FC, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, and Shrewsbury Town FC in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States in 2006. He is an assistant coach at Lourdes University in Toledo. The player-assistant coach will be Ella Walsh, a native of Swansea who represented Wales at the youth level. She played for Swansea City Ladies FC and competed in the UEFA Women's Champions League in both 2010 and 2011. In addition, she won two Welsh Cup finals. She played collegiately at Loughborough University and helped the squad win the BUCS Premier League in 2012-2013. She coaches youth soccer in Toledo and is also an assistant coach for women at Lourdes University. 

Canadian Soccer Association names 10 Allocated National Team Pool players to NWSL

On January 25th, the National Women's Soccer League announced the names of ten national team pool players that the Canadian Soccer Association will subsidize for the 2017 season, the fifth year that they have partnered with the league. The CSA pays the players' salaries so that team owners have a lower operations budget and a better chance to be successful in their markets.

Two new allocated players are forward Nichelle Prince and goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who were selected in this month's NWSL draft. Sheridan played at Clemson University and was selected no. 23 overall by Sky Blue FC, while Ohio State's Prince was selected no. 28 overall by the Houston Dash, both in the third round. The other eight will remain with their 2016 teams while the Orlando Pride relinquished the rights to Kaylyn Kyle and Josee Belanger and they can be drafted in a re-entry draft by another club. Canada allocated 11 players in 2016 but former Western New York Flash's Adrianna Leon in now playing in Switzerland with FC Zurich.

Boston Breakers: Allysha Chapman
Chicago Red Stars: None
Houston Dash:Janine Beckie, Nichelle Prince*
FC Kansas City: Desiree Scott
North Carolina Courage: Sabrina D'Angelo
Orlando Pride: None
Portland Thorns FC: Christine Sinclair
Seattle Reign FC: Diana Matheson
Sky Blue FC: Kailen Sheridan*
Washington Spirit: Stephanie Labbé, Shelina Zadorsky

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribalfootball. His latest book is Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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