Asisat Oshoala slams CAF over women's Africa Cup of Nations cancellation

Four-time African woman Player of the Year Asisat Oshoala has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Confederation of African Football for their cancellation of this year's African Women's Cup of Nations.

Africa's football governing body recently announced that the 2020 edition of its premiere women's tournament, which has been held consistently every other year since 1998, would be cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is a decision that did not go down well with Barcelona striker Oshoala, who fired off a tweet criticizing the decision, and accusing CAF of dragging the women's game backwards.

She wrote: "Other competitions POSTPONED but AWCON "CANCELLED" thank you once again for making us realize women's football isn't important to you. Congratulations on dragging us back AGAIN. Adios to all the women National teams in Africa, see y'all in 2022 #PrioritizeWomensFootball #NoExcuse"

Following up on that tweet, Oshoala told ESPN: "CAF needs to make sure they prioritize women's football.

"The men's tournament was not cancelled. You can't scrap a continental tournament just like that. I think it is a big slap on our faces to scrap this year's edition.

"It is not looking good. They have always been struggling to get a host nation for the tournament. You cannot be struggling to get a host nation for the Nations Cup, a continental tournament that happens every two years.

"Moving it to 2021 would have been okay. But saying it is going to be cancelled is not. We can't be at this level in 2020, it's a shame.

"We need a proper explanation as to why this decision was taken."

That explanation was offered by Isha Johanssen, chairperson of the CAF Organizing Committee for Women's Football in an audio interview released by CAF, where she also pushed back on claims that the confederation does not prioritize women's football.

Johanssen said: "Women's football means a lot to CAF. We take pride not only in the fact that we have women's football in our calendar but also the fact that we are facing these challenges head on and we are making great strives to change the narrative.

"For the 2020 AWCON there were circumstances beyond our control which made it difficult for CAF to organize it. All options were explored but to no avail.

"First, the withdrawal of Congo meant that we had to look for new hosts. The bid was reopened and we received bids from Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. However both bids lacked the most important document, that document being the letter of support from their respective governments.

"If you can't get a letter of support from your government to host a tournament, it becomes quite complex and problematic that becomes a problem we cannot organise a competition without the guarantee from the government of the country.

"The second point is the outbreak of Covid-19. As you know, this led to the suspension of sporting activities on the continent and indeed around the world.

"Due to that, the qualifiers initially scheduled for April 2020, had to be postponed indefinitely. With women's Afcon being a senior national team competition, we could only schedule matches during the FIFA dates, which were also affected by COVID.

"So the women's calendar was revised which left us with two window opportunities in September and October for the qualifiers.

"Again you have the closure of borders across the continent too, so it was very, very unlikely we would be able to organize matches taking into consideration the travel restrictions.

"It is not a case of taking the easy way out but because of circumstances beyond our control.

"I can assure you I understand how disappointing it can be. But as much as this may come as disappointing news, it is based on the current global situation and nothing to do with another agenda other than the fact that we simply cannot hold the competitions under this abnormal times."

It's not all doom and gloom, as CAF also announced the creation of a Women's Champions League, a decision Oshoala was happy to get behind.

She added: "It is really good because a competition like that keep teams together and it is more exposure for local players.

"It will also help to grow and market women's football across the continent. Even if the federations are not being serious the clubs will have something to aspire to because they have to represent their countries, they will take things seriously and support the local teams, just the way the men's clubs do.

"For me, I think it is a very good one. I understand that only a few countries have proper leagues. But if you don't start, it can't get better. Even if there are only three or four teams, they should just start first. If you don't start something, you can't improve on it.