“The 2015 Women’s World Cup of Football (soccer) is here in our backyard (Ottawa), and we are well represented!”
It is an honour to have the world cup hosted in your country; it is even a greater honour to have it hosted in your own city. Alas, we in Ottawa have it all; a world cup of football in our city, and a national team we can call our own among the “outside” favourites. In this world cup, we shall not only be privileged to watch our Canadian idols such as Christine Sinclair, we shall also be entertained by some of the finest players from the continent of Africa, as well as those players of African descent playing for various countries other than African teams (France immediately springs to mind!).
It is no secret that our Canadian women’s national team is a powerhouse in world football, and will be well represented by Canadians of African descent. Canada will be making a seventh appearance in the world cup, and our twenty-three – woman roster include five (5) players with black ancestry, namely:
Karina LeBlanc (goalkeeper, 35 years old) – born in Atlanta to a Dominican father and a Jamaican mother, moved to Maple Ridge, British Columbia at age 8 and stated playing soccer at age 12.
- Kadeisha Buchanann (defender, 19 years old) – Both of Buchanan’s parents are originally from Jamaica. She grew up in the greater Toronto area. She is one of twelve (12) children.
- Robyn Gayle (defender, 29 years old) – She is one of the veterans of the team. She was born in Mississauga, Ontario.
- Ashley Lawrence (midfield, 20 years old) – She was born to a Nigerian father.
- Desiree Scott (midfield, 27 years old) – Her father was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
With Karian LeBlanc and Erin McLeod competing for the No1 spot in goal, and a tough backline with veteran Robyne Gayle, Kadeisha Buchanann, Emily Zurrer, Carmelina Moscato and Rhian Wilkinson, Canada are expected to be strong on both sides of the ball. A quarter final berth is not beyond this team.
As usual, the ladies of the United States of America will be tough to beat, as they have virtually dominated the women’s game since its inception thanks in large part to Article IX and the vision of Anson Dorrance). USA will be aiming to wrestle the cup from Japan who won it the last time the games were held in 2011. As usual, the USA is one of the 5 teams tipped to win the world cup. The other four are Japan, Germany, France and Brazil.
The women draped in stars and stripes will be led in attack by Abby Wambach, arguably the most imposing forward in the women’s game, and shielded in the back by goalie Hope Solo. The twenty-three woman roster is made up of only two players of African-American ancestry.
There is no shortage of players of African descent on the star-studded Brazilian national team who are playing their 5th world cup. Players like Rilany, Formiga, Brina (captain) Cristiane and Andresa are all Brazilians of black descent (most likely Nigerian descent). Brazil can also boast of three (3) time FIFA women’s footballer of the year in Marta Vieira da Silva (29 years old). I see Brazil going all the way to the finals.
The German women are gaining a reputation just as their male counterparts – they are tough, meticulous and goal oriented. En-route to the world cup finals, the German women won all their 10 qualifying games in their group. In the process, they scored 62 goals and let in a paltry 3. The Germans also have in the midst FIFA’s Player of the Year 2015 in the person of Nadine Angerer. There is at least one player of African descent on the German national team (Celia Sasic).
Like Germany, France took care of business during the qualifying series. France now has the top scorer and top assister in European soccer. There is a reason France is ranked as high as they are right now; it’s because they boast the top scorer and top assister in European qualifying play. Indeed, they even beat Germany 2-0 in the Fall of 2014 in a friendly match. The French team has the highest contingent of players of African ancestry in Europe.
This French team has at least eight (8) players of African descent on the team including Sarah Bouhaddi, Laura Georges, Wendie Renard, Griedge Mbock Bathy, Amel Majri, Élodie Thomis, Kenza Dali, and Marie-Laure Delie. Watch out for the French to make waves in this year’s diadem.
The world champions have had a rough ride since they won it all in 2011. In qualifying, Japan had to fend off Australia and China in order to make it to the world cup of 2015. However, if their disciplined display against the Americans in the finals of 2011 is anything to yell about, expect the indefatigable Japanese to frustrate the big names this summer. There are no players of African descent on this Japanese team.
Women’s football in Africa is almost nonexistent when you compare it to the men’s game and the euphoria surrounding it. In spite of this however, Nigeria has been representing the continent fairly well since the inception of the women’s world cup in 1991.
Nigeria’s best showing was in 1999 when they made it to the quarter-final round and were narrowly defeated by Brazil who eventually lost in the semi -finals. Patience Abre was a revelation in that quarter-final match against Brazil in 1999.
In Africa, the Super Falcons of Nigeria (as the women’s national team is affectionately called) is the predominant force. They have dominated the women’s game in Africa, winning 7 out of the 9 continental tournaments so far. Nigeria is ranked 33rd in the world, as it punches above its weigh at the global level. But Africa’s real hope of getting far in the competition is Nigeria as they boast of world class players like Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale, Desire Oparanozie (very experienced having represented Nigeria at the 2011 World Cup in Germany, the 2010 and 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2008 U-17 Women’s World Cup), and Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria’s newest sensation having played at the last two U-20 World Cup competitions and won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot award at Canada 2014). However, much will depend on which Nigerian team shows up on game day, as Nigeria is in the group of death with the USA, Sweden, and Australia.
The other representatives from Africa are Cote D’Ivoire, and Cameroon (both teams are appearing for the first time in their history). It will be interesting to see how Cote D’Ivoire fares against Norway and Germany in their group. Cameroon will also struggle against Japan and Switzerland. Expect Cote D’Ivoire and Cameroon to crash out of the competition early on.
About the writer
Andy Kusi-Appiah is the founder of SkillFocus, an Ottawa-based soccer development program for elite athletes, and has also served as head coach for elite teams in both Ontario and Quebec (1995-2010). He is also the co-founder and CEO of the Canadian Education Management Agency. Andy was the senior advisor on diversity issues to former Mayor Bob Chiarelli, and has also served on numerous advisory committees and Task forces at the City of Ottawa. Andy is also an adjunct professor at Carleton University.