... As Women Championship Begins
ONE major thing that will be at stake this afternoon as host Banyana Banyana of South Africa and Ghana's Black Queens trade tackles in the Group 'A' opening match of the 2004 Africa Women Championship, is pride.
On two occasions when both countries met in the championship, the victory cake was shared equally.In 1998 when the maiden edition of the championship was staged in Nigeria, it was the Ghana Black Queens who carried the day after pumping in four unreplied goals past the Banyana Banyana keeper, Delisle Mbatha.
It was a painful experience for the South Africans who enjoyed all the support of Nigerian soccer fans throughout their stay at the Abeokuta centre.
In 2000, when the South Africans hosted the championship for the first time, the Banyana Banyana defeated Black Queens in the semi-final.
A lone goal scored by Joanne Solomon for the South African team in the ninth minute of the game separated both countries. That particular defeat denied the Ghanaians the opportunity of appearing in the final of the 2000 edition of the championship.
Today at the Germisto Stadium, Ghana will be attempting to over-power the Banyana Banyana squad who will be cheered by their teeming home fans. The match will begin at 1p.m.
Apart from the task of facing the home crowd, the Ghana Black Queens will have to do everything possible to curtain the striking duo of former Arsenal of England forward, Portia Mordise and Veronica Phewa.
The two players, who almost destroyed Super Falcons' hope of picking the Athens Olympic games ticket in Abuja earlier this year, have vowed to use the 2004 Africa Women Championship to wrestle the CAF female footballer of the year award from Ghana and Nigeria.
The duo had told The Guardian in Abuja during the Olympic games qualifier that South Africa will be hosting to win the fourth edition of the women championship.
"We hosted the championship in 2000 and lost to Nigeria in the final. It will not be the same this time around. We are hosting to win," Phewa and Mordise had vowed.
Ghana's Black Queens have one title to defend and that is the CAF award of the African Female player of the year 2003.
Bayor Adjoa won the title last year in a ceremony held in Yaounde, Cameroon after USA based striker, Alberta Sackey won it in 2002 following her lone strike which gave Ghana the first victory against Nigeria's Super Falcons in the group stage of the last edition of the AWC in Warri.
Today's match is significant in another way, as the winner is likely to stay away from the trouble of facing the defending champions, Nigeria's Super Falcons in the semi final stage.
Later today, Ethiopia will be facing an up-hill task by attempting to stop Zimbabwe, who made it to the semi final stage during the maiden edition of the championship in Nigeria. The match is billed for 4p.m at the same Germisto Stadium.
This is Ethiopia's second appearance in the championship and the fourth for the Beautiful Flowers of Zimbabwe.