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The Week in Women's Football: Mamelodi Sundowns claim history trophy; PSG success and scandal

This week, we review the first African Champions League Finals tournament for clubs, from the 8 team group stages through the Final and Third Place Matches. We also look at the bizarre situation at Paris St. Germain in France regarding the attack on their international Kheira Hamrooui, which after covering some horrible behaviors within NWSL this season, this attack and its implications show us that shocking off-the field behaviors are not just the province of the NWSL.



African Women's Champions League—Mamelodi Sundowns Win the First Continental Club Title in Africa in an Exciting and Historic Tournament

Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa were crowned as the first African Women's Champions League champions after a 2-0 win over Ghana's Hasaacas in Cairo, Egypt on November 19. Midfielder Chuene Morifi (30) scored the first goal just after the half hour mark on an assist by forward Andisiwe Mgcoyi (33, who has played in Kosovo, Slovakia and Germany and in the 2012 Olympic Games Finals), sealing the result with a 65th minute goal to give Mamelodi Sundowns the title, matching what the men's side did five years before in winning the African Champions League for the first time in 2016, the second title for South Africa after Orlando Pirates in Johannesburg won in 1995. Mgcoyi, who was named the best player of the championship game, said afterwards, "To be the first team that wins WCL is huge. Women's football is growing in Africa, and it's a good thing for us to be role models for young girls."

In the third place match on October 18, ASFAR of Morocco defeated Equatorial Guinea's Malabo Kings 3-1, with two goals from Ghizlane Chebbak in the second half along with a first half goal from Fatima Tagnaout, who also assisted on Chebbak's second goal. Equatorial Guinea had tied the game early in the second half through Carolina Martin Pereira's strike.

Last month we previewed the inaugural African Football Confederation (CAF) club championship finals for the 2021 TotalEnergies CAF Women's Champions League, held in Egypt from November 5 through November 19 (see: The Week in Women's Football: African Champions League; COSAFA; DR Congo controversy - Tribal Football). Below we look at the results from Group Play, the semifinals and present thoughts from players, coaches and administrators on the importance of this first women's club championship tournament for Africa.

In Group A play, Hasaacas of Ghana won the group with an undefeated record 2-1-0 (W-T-L) for 7 points while Malabo Kings of Equatorial Guinea edged host side Wadi Degla of Egypt on a +1 to -1 goal differential, after both teams finished on 4 points. AS Mande of Mali went home with one point from their three matches after a 1-1 deadlock against fellow West African side Malabo Kings on November 11.

Also on November 11, the last Group A matchday, Hasaacas clinched the group with a 2-2 draw with Wadi Degla that left the home team out of the competition on goal difference. Degla started the game strongly and scored first through American-born Jasmin Theresa Zachwieja, then Hasaacas came back to tie the match with a goal by Faustina Nyame Aidoo, who played in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in the past. Noha Mamdouh then scored her second goal in the tournament from a free kick in the 26th minute to send the Egyptian side into the break with a 2-1 lead. After the restart, Hasaacas tied the game with a goal by former Ghanaian U-20 international Veronica Appiah (24) four minutes into the half to end Degla's hopes to qualify for the semifinal. Wadi Degla Head Coach Wael El Sayed said after the match, "I congratulate Hassacas' coach on their qualification; they play very good football, and they deserve [to win]. The level here in the tournament can be compared to European levels. We did not qualify from the last match… but we still tried our best till the last minute." Wadi Degla was started in 2007 in Cairo and has won a record 12 Egyptian women's league titles, including the past 11 in a row.

The second playoff spot essentially came down to the second matchday when Malabo Kings defeated Wadi Degla 3-0 at 30 June Stadium, in Cairo on November 8. The Equatoguineans dominated the game as Stephanie Gbegou (see more below) opened the scoring for Malabo Kings in the 13th minute from the penalty spot. She completed her brace with her third goal of the tournament in the 41st minute for a 2-0 half-time lead. After the break, DR Congo international Grace Balongo added the third goal for Malabo. Wadi Degla goalkeeper Nasra Abdel Malek, who also plays handball at the club level, made huge saves to keep the score down; she hopes someday to play professionally in France, where her sister Marwa Eid Abdel-Malik plays as a handball goalkeeper in Nice.

A high point for Wadi Degla in the tournament was when they became the first team to score at the CAF Women's Champions League Finals in their 3-1 win over Malian champions AS Mande 3-1 at Cairo's 30 June Stadium on matchday 1, from Noha Mamdouh's goal. American-Gambian forward Fatumata Dukureh scored the second goal before assisting on the third for Wadi Degla. Noha Mamdouh explained the difficulty that she and her teammate and twin sister Gihan have in balancing sport and their schooling, "We study architecture and it's very challenging to keep up with it and commit to training at the same time, but we always keep trying. Of course, compromises happen, but we try our best to create a balance between them." Gihan added, "I'm very proud of my sister scoring the first goal ever of CAF WCL. I anticipated her placing it into the left of the net and told my mates on the bench so. And that's what she did. We have that type of chemistry as twins." Noha explained that football runs in her family, "We were lucky enough to have our family's support, as our father was a footballer too. Even our mother turned into a supporter of us when she saw how much we are good at football." Gihan did not like to think about the possibility of playing against her sister in the future, "I think it would be difficult to play as opponents, but at the same time we'd anticipate each other's moves." Noha added, "I don't think we'd be as strong individually as we are together. We understand each other very well which makes us both stronger."


Noha and Gihan Mamdouh

Noha Mamdouh (left), scorer of the first ever goal in the history of TotalEnergies CAF Women's Champions League, and her sister, Gihan Mamdouh (in green). Photo Courtesy Confederation of African Football.


The twins sent a message to all young girls who wanted to play football—which is still not an easy path for females in much of North Africa and West Asia, "Every girl should play what she wants, there's nothing such as 'Football is only for men;' you just need to be determined and never stop working on yourself. Don't listen to destructive criticism and always try to learn more." Gihan added, "I always turn 'impossible' into 'I'm possible,' that's my motto.'" The half-Egyptian half-Italian twins are interested in playing abroad, especially in Italy at some point in their careers.

The twin's teammate Dukureh (23), who moved to Wadi Degla during the summer following her stint in the United States at Bellevue Community College in Vancouver, Washington—across the Colombia River from Portland, Oregon—told CAFOnline that she is representing her country at the tournament, "I'm representing the entire Gambia in the tournament. I'm humbled to be the first from my country to play in this historic tournament. I've been receiving a lot of support back home through social media and I know how excited my people are to watch one of their own playing at this level." She previously played for Abuko United in The Gambian Women's league, which was a crucial time in her career, explaining that, "Playing for Abuko United in The Gambia has really helped shaped my career because they've helped me through developing my football and also guided me to combine football and my academic career. It is during my time at Abuko United that many knew about me and my potentials. I was selected for the national team while at the club; the club is so special to me and I'm proud and grateful to be part of its history."

On the roster for the CAF Champions League side, Waldi listed five Americans:

Defender Chloe Lamenzo (23)—who grew up in Olympia, Washington, played for the NWSL Seattle Reign Academy Teams and at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.

Defender Catlin Miller (25)

Midfielder Nikole Villarin (26)

Forward Jasmin Zachwieja (28)

Forward Fatumata Dukureh (23)—who has played international for Gambia (see above).

Equatorial Guinea's club side champions Malabo Kings, which won the league title in 2019—their first year in the league—has a number of imports. This is common for the small country and has gotten the national team into trouble in the past with their liberal use of imports, skirting FIFA rules on residency requirements to represent a country for those not born in the nation. Some have been accused of not ever residing at all in EQ but simply play for the national team, which is not allowed. Malabo Kings' imports—coming primarily from neighboring Cameroon as well as a pair from DR Congo—included:

Goalkeeper Ruth Sunday (23) of Nigeria

Defender Carolina Conceicao Martins (38) of Brazil, who has also played in Germany and been capped by Equatorial Guinea

Defender Fanta Florence (18) of Cameroon

Defender Salome Nke (32) plays for EG internationally but was born in Cameroon

Defender Linan N'Gbazo (27) of DR Congo

Defender Marie Lucie Koa Obolo (39) of Cameroon who was primarily a substitute

Midfielder Grace Balongo (23) of DR Congo

Midfielder Rose Bella (27) of Cameroon; she played for their 2015 WWC team in Canada that made the Round of 16 and lost narrowly to China 1-0

Midfielder Phiomene Bissogo (29) of Cameroon, who was mainly a substitute

Midfielder Marie Obolo (39) of Cameroon

Forward Stephanie Gbogou (26) of Burkina Faso

Mande of Mali and group winners Hasaacas of Ghana used a squad that qualified to play internationally for Mali and Ghana, respectively.

In an equally close Group B, South African Mamelodi Sundowns advanced as group winners, while FAR Rabat of Morocco and Vihiga Queens of Kenya were in a battle for second that was decided by FAR's goalless draw with Sundowns in their last match (matchday 3 on November 12), as Rivers Angels of Nigeria won their only game of the tournament with a 4-0 defeat over Vihiga Queens. Both sides finished in a tie for third on 3 points but the Nigerians had a better goal difference (0 to -3) to avoid last place. After the match FAR's midfielder and player of the match Fatima Tagnaout (22) said, "It was not an easy match, we had a lot of pressure on us, especially that we did not know the other match's result. I'm very happy of my teammates and we are very excited to play in the semifinals." Tagnaout was a starter on the Morocco side that played in Spain last month. Her head coach, Abadallah Haidamou added, "We worked on our midfield well and I thank [the] players for playing the way we planned. We were aware of the other match's result in the last ten minutes, so we instructed the players to be cautious and not concede any goals. We are very happy with this win. We have a strong team, and we wanted a tournament like this. To be in the semifinals of the first edition as a Moroccan team is very important for us". Jerry Tshbalala, the Mamelodi Sundowns head coach, was unperturbed by the two dropped points, saying, "[It was] A very tough and tactical game. Both coaches did their best, but we played better in the second half. A draw looks good for both teams, so I'm satisfied with it."

In the second match day on November 9, Mamelodi Sundowns' captain, Zanele Portia Nhlapho, who has played in Europe in Kosovo, scored the game's lone goal at the 17th minute, as Massandawna recorded their second identical 1-0 of the tournament, win a win over River Angels. Kenya's Vihiga Queens defeated Morocco's ASFAR 2-0 the same day. Violet Wanyonyi scored the first goal for the Queens at the 9th minute while Kenyan full international Tereza Engesha scored the second goal early in the second half.

Morocco's ASFAR kicked off their campaign at the maiden TotalEnergies CAF Women's Champions League, Egypt 2021 with an emphatic 3-0 win over Nigeria's Rivers Angels in Cairo on November 6. Sanaa Mssoudi scored a hat trick—the first of the competition—and skipper and Morocco international midfielder Ghizlane Chebbak (30) provided a hat trick of assists. Morocco's Chebbak spoke to CAFOnline.com about discovering a love for football. "I began playing football when I was 8 years old. My father was a professional footballer, and he inspired me a lot. I started playing with boys at the streets like everyone. Then I went to play in a team at our neighborhood…As a kid, I always found difficulties to keep up with both football and my education, especially that in my days there was no programs supporting sports with education like there is now. So, I had to choose football over everything else. I still urge young girls to stick to whatever they love and want to play, but to always take care of their education as well because it's just as important." Chebbak added that, "Families should support their daughters to develop their talents, do not leave them to how societies judge female footballers because they think it's only for men. Girls! play football or anything you love, work on yourselves and you'll be stars."

Mamelodi Sundowns defeated Vihiga Queens 1-0 in Group B's matchday 1, at El Salam Stadium, Cairo. Melinda Kagadiete scored the only goal for Mamelodi Sundowns early in the 3rd minute and was unable to increase the lead as the Queens' goalkeeper, Lilian Onyango Awuor (22), was outstanding and won the Woman of The Match Award; the Kenyan backstop is in the Harambee Starlets full national team pool and been capped on one occasion.

Sundowns used a team comprised entirely of South Africans. FAR Rabat used all native Moroccans while Vihaga Queens used an all-Kenyan side. Rivers Angels of Nigeria had two imports on their roster—goalkeeper Charlotte Adjei of Ghana (19) and Brigitte Omboudou (29) of Cameroon, a senior international, who once played for Minsk in Belarus as well as time at home with Louves Minproff and Amazone FAP.

After the Group Stage, the leading scorers were Ghanaian U-20 international midfielder Evelyn Badu (19) of Hasaacas with 4 goals, while Burkina Faso native forward Drepoba Stephanie Gbogou of Malabo Kings and forward Sanaa Mssoudy (21) of FAR Rabat tied for second with 3 goals—the latter scored them all in one game. Mssoudy started for Morocco's national team selection that lost to Spain 3-0 in a friendly last month, playing the entire match. Badu added a fifth goal in the semifinals.


Best-XI-wide

Photo courtesy CAFOnline.com


Evelyn Badu of Hasaacas was named the best player of the group stage while Sundowns' Asa Rabalao was the Best Goalkeeper. Yussif Basigi of Hasaacas was named the Best Coach of the group stage by the tournament's technical study group. Basigi was born in 1972 and has a diploma in Education and also a bachelor's degree in Health, Physical Training and Recreation. After a playing career that included stints in Ghana and Burkina Faso, Basigi started his coaching career in 2003, and earned all the required licenses. Between 2011 and 2013, Basigi was the assistant coach of Ghana women national team, The Black Queens. Later he became the head coach and helped Ghana to the 2014 Women Africa Cup of Nations Finals. In 2015, he led Ghana to win the Gold Medal of the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville for the first time in their history. He led Ghana once again to the 2016 Women Africa Cup of Nations, where the Black Queens finished third. Basigi moved to coach the Ghana U-20 national team in 2017 and reached the 2018 FIFA U-20 FIFA World Cup Finals. Since 2011 and besides his national teams' duty, he has coached Hasaacas Ladies to four Ghana Women Premier League titles, one Ghana Women's FA Cup and the WAFU Zone B tournament that qualified them to the maiden TotalEnergies CAF Women's Champions League edition.

Basigi explained to CAFOnline.com the importance of this new tournament in Africa, particularly since he has been coaching women's football for almost two decades, "Since we knew about this tournament, we started the preparations. We are here to demonstrate why we are champions. We started preparing the players physically and psychologically two months ago to reach another level on both sides. I've been a women's football coach for 18 years now, so it makes me so proud to have [the] Women's Champions League in Africa, and it's another feeling to be part of it as well [as] being an advocate talking about women's rights in Africa to have their own Champion's League. My compliments go to CAF for establishing women's football; we are in the right direction. The future looks very bright and it's a gradual process to become more like men's football," he added.

In the semifinals on November 15, Mamelodi Sundowns won a spot in the Final by defeating Malabo Kings of Equatorial Guinea 5-4 on penalties after six rounds, following a 0-0 deadlock. South African international goalkeeper Andile Dlamini (290 was the player of the match.

Sundowns' midfielder Lerato Kgasago (30) is one of the team's key players and talked to CAFOnline.com about the importance of this tournament, "I've been playing for Mamelodi Sundowns since 2013. In my football career, I've had ups and downs, many injuries, but I've enjoyed it very much. I played for South Africa national teams U-17, U-20, and the senior team as well. I've managed to secure a deal overseas in Iceland [with IBV] for two years and came back, so I did interesting things." She started to play football as a young child, "I'm the only girl in our home, and my father used to play football. So, I started playing football at the age of 6 with a boys' team. To be honest, I've been lucky to have my family's support. Even though they got scared for me at times, of getting injured, especially playing with boys, but they kept supporting me. My mother even used to take me to my trainings. When you reach a certain age, you realize that being only a footballer does not help you financially, as women's football does not have enough money as the men's game. So, I made sure to secure myself with another full-time job. I had to work on both at the same time."

In the other semifinal game, Hasaacas Ladies defeated ASFAR of Morocco 2-1 to make the CAF Champions League Final. Hasaacas Ladies scored first from Doris Boaduwaa, before ASFAR scored the equalizer through Moroccan international Najat Badri in the last minute before the break. In the second half, Hasaacas missed a penalty when Perpetual Agyekum's effort rebounded from the post after 66 minutes. The tournament's top scorer (four goals) Evelyn Badu scored the winning goal for Hassacas to end the game 2-1 despite ASFAR's late game attacks.

Hasaacas head coach Yussif Basigi said after the game, "I said last time that the game was not going to be easy. The tempo of the teams qualifying for this is very high. Yes, we missed the penalty, but having the penalty in the first place meant we were attacking and going to win. There were tactical variations in the second half. We are going to train the girls on finishing as this is a key element for us. The girls have faith in me and so do I. They listen to me carefully, that's why out second half is more powerful most of the time." Abdallah Haidamu, the head coach of ASFAR, said, "We were not lucky today, but I thank the girls for their efforts and we learnt a lot from this tournament. We want to win the third place medal and not go home empty handed. We will try and prepare the girls to concentrate on the next match."



Importance of this first CAF Champion's League Tournament and Related Tournament News

From players and administrators, there is a sense of the groundbreaking importance of this tournament. Enez Mango of Kenya's Vihiga Queens said to BBC Sport Africa, "There are many hidden talents in Africa and this will be a bigger platform to showcase the talent. Most players whose dreams have been to play in Europe or other countries will get this opportunity. I think it is the best move ever."

Isha Johansen, the vice-president of CAF women's football organizing committee, added that this first tournament was, "a dream is being realized. One of the key aims of the CAF women's strategy was to strengthen and develop the women's game. The stronger the leagues and the clubs are, the better players you are able to produce. A Champions League representing the continent means more quality players can be showcased on an international level. That is the aim, that our female players get more visibility."

Congratulations to CAF, all the teams, staff and administration for the first African Champions League Tournament, for this ground-breaking and important event.

In other news for women's football in CAF, as part of advancing professionalism in women's football clubs in Africa, CAF held a club licensing workshop in Cairo for teams participating in the TotalEnergies CAF Women's Champions League. The workshop, organized by CAF with the support of FIFA, was attended by coaches and managers from the eight clubs that have qualified for the final tournament.

Speaking at the workshop, CAF Vice-President and Chairperson of Women's Football Committee, Kanizat Ibrahim said, "Having strong women's football clubs is a guarantee of quality in the future. We owe it to ourselves to build a structure that respects standards and CAF is happy to support women's clubs in order to improve professionalism."

The objectives of the workshop were to:

Introduce the new CAF Women´s club licensing system and regulations to the clubs

Explain the general objectives of the club licensing system

Explain the club licensing criteria and requirements

Understand the organization and structure of the participating clubs

Have one-on-one meetings with the clubs to evaluate level of compliance of club licensing

Gather administrative, financial and competition information related to the participating clubs

Provide support and advise on fulfilment of the club licensing requirements

The introduction and implementation of the system allows CAF to better understand the realities of the top women's football clubs and accelerate the professionalization of the women's game in the continent. The CAF Women's Club Licensing Regulations focuses on the sporting, administration, infrastructure, finance, and legal pillars.

For the 2021 CAF WCL edition—including the regional qualifiers, 34 clubs were licensed and 32 took part in the zonal qualifiers.



PSG defeats Real Madrid in UEFA WCL, Falls in the League to Lyon and has a Bizarre Scandal on its Hands

Paris St. Germain won an important UEFA Champions League game 4-0 win at home on November 9 in Group B with French international Marie-Antoinette Katoto (23) scoring a brace. Hours after the game, PSG's French international forward Aminata Diallo (who played a few games last season in the NWSL Fall Series with Utah Royals) was arrested on suspicion of involvement on an attack on her PSG and French international teammate Kheira Hamrooui. French sports paper L'Equipefirst reported that Diallo's arrest was linked to the attack on Hamraoui. PSG said in a press release that Diallo was arrested, "as part of the proceedings opened following an attack on the club's players last Thursday evening." French police reports said that two masked men pulled Hamraoui from the passenger's seat of a car being driven Diallo. Hamraoui was beaten with a metal bar, focusing on her legs, while Diallo was restrained but unharmed. Hamraoui had no broken bones but was badly shaken and had cuts and bruises.

Diallo started against Real Madrid in place of Hamraoui. L'Equipe's report suggested that Diallo played a role in the attack as the two players battled for playing time in the squad. Hamraoui returned to PSG this season after winning the UEFA Champions League with FC Barcelona last season. Diallo also returned to PSG this season, where she has played since 2016 from Guingamp, from loan spells in Utah in 2020 and Atletico Madrid earlier in 2021.

Reports said that the PSG female players and staff had been out to dinner with club officials in Paris last Thursday when Diallo offered Hamraoui a ride home. The players reportedly are close friends who have holidayed together. The two each live in the same upscale Paris suburb, about a 30-minute drive from where they were having dinner. As the car approached Hamraoui's house around 10.30 p.m., the masked men appeared and carried out the alleged attack, that took place over several minutes.

Without both players, Olympique Lyon defeated Paris St. Germain 6-1 on November 14 in front of a large crowd 13,000 fans at the Groupama Stadium in Lyon in their top-of-the-table clash in D1 Arkema, with Ada Hegerberg of Norway—who recently returned to the game after missing almost two years with injuries—scoring a brace.

Diallo was released from police custody the day after her detainment without being charged and PSG asked for the presumption of innocence, as well as respecting the privacy of the players. A man with connections to Diallo also was questioned by released without charges. Another PSG player, Sakina Karchaoui, who joined PSG this summer from Lyon, was also requested by police to be interviewed. In another twist, former France and Barcelona defender Eric Abidal (42) is also sought for questioning as well as possibly his wife Hayet. Abidal was Barcelona's sporting director when Hamraoui signed for the Spanish champions in 2018.


psg-football

Aminata Diallo, far left, and Kheira Hamraoui, second right, were teammates at PSG this season. (Photo: Haflidi Breidfjord, UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)


Diallo could still be charged at a later date. French outlet L'Equipe, cited a judicial source saying that there was not yet enough evidence for an indictment. Speaking to BFMTV on Tuesday, Diallo's lawyer Mourad Battikh said: "I think that my client has been exonerated. She had been released free from a slanderous, scandalous and incoherent custody. Slanderous because it casted scorn on her and her family. Scandalous because she was released without any charges against her and incoherent because the investigation is now going into another direction. My client is very affected psychologically by the media storm. More than 6,000 articles have been published in national and international media. It is very damaging that she is famous for that and that medias only got an interest in her in this way. However, she is determined to clear up her name and prove her innocence on a legal aspect."

In a year with so many setbacks off the field for women's football, particularly in the NWSL, this is another bad situation taking attention away from the game on the field


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

Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey


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