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International clubs look to Africa for female football talent

International clubs look to Africa for female football talent [Image Source: bird story agency]

International clubs are looking to Africa for more female football talent, a new FIFA report shows.


Bonface Orucho, bird story agency


Africa is growing into a critical supplier of professional female football talent to international clubs outside the continent, according to a new FIFA report.


The ‘Global Transfer Report 2023’ released on January 30 by the international football governing body, FIFA, shows that Nigeria and Ghana produced among the highest number (in the top ten globally) of women players in the international transfer market last year.


The FIFA report assesses and aggregates the market dynamics of professional and amateur footballers globally.


“An all-time record of 74,836 cross-border transfers were made in 2023. Some 23,689 (31.7%) of these moves involved professionals (men and women), with the other 51,147 (68.3%) transfers being those of amateurs,” FIFA highlights in a media release accompanying the report.


In the global rankings, Nigeria and Ghana secured the 4th and 8th positions, respectively, in a list including the USA, Brazil, Colombia, Britain, France, Canada, Germany and Argentina.


These statistics underscore the escalating momentum of professional women's football in Africa, revealing a substantial rise in female participation in the sport not only within the continent but also globally.


The surge in female players from the continent aligns with CAF's Women's Football Landscape report, disclosed in 2022, which reported over 150,000 registered female players across its member associations.


Beyond Nigeria and Ghana, the FIFA report estimates a total of 260 female players were transferred to clubs outside the continent, generating a revenue of US $47,000 for the selling clubs. This is a significant rise considering less than 60 African female players were transferred to international clubs in 2020.


More encouragingly, the number of players within the continent who were transferred to other African clubs is also rising. For instance, ONG Academie Sam-Nelly, a Beninese women's football club, set a global record by signing 22 players last year, all acquired from Nigeria.


According to Fernande Tchetche, an Ivorian national defensive former professional footballer, women's football is “in full expansion and growing daily.”


“Girls from all over Africa can freely play football and earn a living from this sport. Today, women’s football in Africa is steadily growing into a job and this is quite encouraging to see,” she explained in an interview with CAF’s press team.


CAF has recently launched the CAF’s Women’s Instructor Course, a dedicated training course for coaches in female football. Such initiatives promise to further grow female football. The course was launched in Rabat in October 2023, where 19 instructors from 18 countries were trained on best practices when developing female football talent.


In addition to advancements in the female category, the FIFA report highlights notable progress in male professional football, specifically focusing on African players.


Notably, Nigerian and Ghanaian players also stand out as highly coveted in the global football transfer market, ranking among the most preferred.

“Nigeria and Ghana are the only African countries that are among the top ten in terms of the number of transfers made in 2023,” the report details.


825 Nigerian male players transferred across clubs, representing a 9% rise from those made in 2022. These transfers were valued at US $189 million, an 82% increment from the amount clubs selling Nigerian players raised in 2022.


Meanwhile, the value of Ghanaian players in the international football transfer market skyrocketed by 792.9%, reaching US $163 million from 630 transfers. It represents the greatest leap any single country could manage globally.


Apart from Nigeria and Ghana, the continent saw 3066 transfers to clubs outside the CAF confederation, raising US $77 million for the selling clubs. The UEFA confederation led the purchases with 860 transfers, indicating a growing interest in African talent worldwide.


Notably, there is a growing appetite for African talent among clubs within the continent. Last year, intra-African transfers reached a record high of 1587, valued at US $11.7 million.


Top African club transfer spenders include Al Ahly and Pyramids-Egypt, Club Sportif Sfaxien - Tunisia, Mamelodi Sundowns - SA, Alahly Benghazi - Libya, ES Tunis - Tunisia, Al Ahly Tripoli - Libya, MCA - Algeria, Al Hilal KH - Sudan, and Young Africans Sports Club - Tanzania.


Even amateur football transfers for both genders involving African players witnessed a significant uptick, with 1146 transfers to the continent, marking a 21.5% rise from the previous year. Additionally, 3172 transfers of amateur talent left the CAF confederation to clubs outside the continent, reflecting a 10% increase from the previous year.


The global sports industry, valued at US $512 billion in 2023, is set to surge to US $624 billion by 2027, according to the Sports Global Market Report 2023. Africa anticipates an 8% market growth in the next 3-5 years, according to PwC's Global Sports Survey 2023.


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