Albertina Sisulu was a leading female anti-Apartheid activist from South Africa’s Eastern Cape and so it is perhaps fitting that this year’s COSAFA Women’s Championship takes place in Nelson Mandela Bay as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of this famous and iconic heroine’s birth.
Mama Sisulu was a leader for a generation of activists who believed not only in equal rights for all races, but also gender equality, and truly lived up to her reputation of ‘A Women of Fortitude’.
It was in part through her actions that women of all races have been able to forge careers in many spheres of life, not least football, a fact that is borne out in the demographic of those taking part in the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship.
Well beyond the players and coaches, women are playing a critical role in the match officiating at the tournament, the administration, media space and television broadcast that is beamed throughout the world via Kwese Sports on their Facebook and YouTube platforms.
“We are delighted to be able to use our tournament to celebrate the life of Mama Albertina Sisulu, who sacrificed so much to help win us the freedoms we enjoy today,” COSAFA Secretary General Sue Destombes said. “We have seen women make giant strides in football around the world, but I like to think that we have been leaders too in the COSAFA region, and indeed Africa, in empowering women across all sectors.
“Staging a regional championship for women is vitally important and we have been able to expand the field to 12 teams for the second tournament in a row, providing a more competitive platform for our players.
“But this also gives opportunity to our female match officials. All 18 referees and assistant referees at the competition are women, gaining vital international experience to help them develop in their careers.
“Our administrative and media teams are almost exclusively women, and have strong female leadership, while I must also commend our partners Kwese Sports for sending an almost exclusively all-female production team.
“We are sending a strong message that women have a leading role to play in what has long been considered a male-dominated sport.”
Mrs Phumla Mnyila, a cousin of Mama Sisulu, was present on the opening day of the COSAFA Women’s Championships to celebrate the role that women are playing in the tournament and to offer her insights on the activist.
The tournament is enjoying a rest day on Sunday, but will resume on Monday with the final matches in Groups A and C.
That includes a meeting for hosts South Africa against Malawi at the Wolfson Stadium at 15h30 (13h30 GMT), while Botswana face a must-win clash against Madagascar in the other pool match being played at the same time at the Westbourne Oval.
In Group C, Zimbabwe tackle Uganda in a crunch clash at the Wolfson Stadium at 13h00 (11h00 GMT), while in the other game Swaziland take on Namibia at the same time.
Only the top team in each pool advances to the semi-finals, along with the best-placed runner-up.