The qualifiers for the Confederation of African Football Women's Champions League start this weekend to qualify for the eight team tournament set to take place in December in Egypt.
Clubs representing 33 countries across the continent are set to participate in the qualifiers. The qualifiers will take place in the form of regional tournaments hosted in one nation, with the winners qualifying for the final stage. Clubs participating in the regional qualifiers qualified via their domestic league before applying for licenses to play in the Champions League.
Qualifying is broken up into six regions, the largest of which is the Council for East and Central African Football Associations, where nine teams will participate. The CECAFA regional qualifying is the first to kick off this weekend. The following weekend they will be followed by the West Africa Football Union Zone B. The qualifiers will be hosted in Nairobi and Abidjan respectively. The other regions will play their qualifiers across the rest of the year.
As host nation Egypt already has their league champions Wadi Degla SC qualified for the competition. However, runners up in the Egyptian Women's Premier League, El Gouna FC are in the North African qualifiers.
The final spot for the show piece in December was granted to the WAFU Zone B, meaning two of the six clubs in the region will qualify. The decision to give the additional qualifying spot to the region was due to performance in the most recent edition of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations where the Nigeria Super Falcons triumphed.
The competition has not been without its problems organisationally. Clubs have struggled to raise funds to finance the expensive operation of travelling internationally, something that is unprecedented for most of the participants. Ghanian champions Hasaacas Ladies, have made a public plea for funders to support the club's trip to Cote d'Iviore.
Other clubs have been forced to pull out due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Rwandan champions Scandinavian WFC have been forced to pull out of the CECAFA qualifiers due to restrictions in place in the country.
In spite of the challenges, the competition represents a giant step forward in women's club football Africa, and will present a platform to make annual continental club football a reality for clubs that have been previously restricted to national or regional leagues.