After the exit of host and Ivory Coast champions, Athletico FC from the 2023 CAF Women’s Champions League, a lot of lessons would have been learned by the players, coaches, and club management in preparation for next season’s campaign in the league and for the continent.
The President of the Abidjan-based side, Oaltunji Abdul Fatai in an exclusive chat with www.kick442.com after the team’s participation in their debut CAF Women’s Champions League keeps stock of the lessons and takes home from the tournament.
The Nigerian owner of the club hopes to return to the continent a better team come next season as the Ivorian women’s football league got underway this week.
“We have learned a lot of things because it is the first time we will be playing in the CAF Women’s Champions League,” Olatunji told www.kick442.com
“We would go back to prepare for our league that is starting this month and hope by the grace of God that we are coming back bigger by next season Insha Allah.”
With the home crowd behind them, one would have envisaged passage to the semi-final but the team lost two of their three group games to JKT Queens (Tanzania) 2-1 and Mamelodi Sundown Ladies (South Africa) 3-0.
The learning curve for the first Ivorian team to participate in the CAF Women’s Champions League was palpable.
“The problem that we have in this Champions League is that we have almost five players that didn’t play due to International Transfer Certificate (ITC) which came after October 26.” He added. “That was the reason why we had some challenges. We hope that next season, the players will come back and play the league.”
The team qualified for the 2023 CAF Women’s Champions League after retaining the Ivorian women’s football league title as the champions of the host country despite a third-placed finish at the West African Zone B (WAFU-B) Women’s Champions League Qualifiers in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.
He continued: “For the WAFU-B, when we went to Nigeria, we made our signings of payers but the problem that we had was that the ITC came late which was the reason the new players didn’t play. It is our first time and we now know how to qualify if God permits us to come next season.
“The problem with Kalu Favour was that we did not get a Reference Number from FIFA for the player. That was the reason why Kalu did not play in the Champions League. Hilary is from Ghana, her ITC Reference Number came on the 28th whereby the deadline was on the 26th but it is part of the experience because we are new to the tournament. We thank God for the first experience in which we learned our lessons. I know the players are in high spirits for the Champions League. By next season, we will do better than that.”
The Nigerian opened up on the challenges of managing and recruiting players in the league with constraints on the number of foreign-based players.
“In Ivory Coast, we don’t have many young players and also have some young players that didn’t come for this tournament because of the experience and high competition this tournament requires. we have some young players and also the league did not permit us to have more than five foreigners. That is the reason why we don’t have much experienced foreign players. Due to the competition, I know the Federation will work on the issues of foreign players because Ivory Coast doesn’t have a lot of women’s football players like English-speaking countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa. English-speaking countries have lots of men and women players. By next season, we know how we will work on that.
“It is very difficult to groom female football talents in Ivory Coast no matter how you make your discovery and scouting, it can never be like Nigeria because in Nigeria, there is the Principals Cup which we don’t have in Ivory Coast. There are a lot of competitions in Nigeria to discover youth players but it is not the same in Ivory Coast. The only we can do is just to go outside the country and recruit players. We can make deals with some clubs. We know that we have a lot to do next season.” He concluded.
The Athlético Football Club of Abidjan was crowned champions of Ivory Coast in the 2021–2022 season.
The club successfully defended their title in the 2022/2023 season, finishing the season undefeated.