It was the best opportunity for Liberia’s women’s division champions, Determine Girls, who had to seal their first-ever qualification to the CAF Women’s Champions League, the biggest women’s club competition on the African continent.
And they took their chances. Determine Girls qualified for the competition on August 21, after defeating Senegal women’s league double champions USPA 1-0 at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium in the West African Football Union (WAFU) Zone A qualifying tournament.
The 1-0 win placed Determine Girls at the top of the three-team table with four points from two games. Guinean international, Bountou Sylla, scored the ultimate match winner after controlling a cross from the right to beautifully send the ball to the back of the net in the 27th minute of the match.
USPA, who needed a compulsory win to qualify, threw all their forces forward but were unlucky to level things up in the first half. In the second period, the Senegalese representatives kept pushing forward, but their best shots on target did not result in goals.
It became a joyous moment of celebration when referee Felicite Kourouma of Guinea sounded her final whistle of the match. Liberians have waited for so long to see their country represented in the final phase of a continental competition since the country was represented by the senior men’s team at the 2002 African Cup of Nations, played in Mali.
Determine Girls made history by becoming the first Liberian women’s club team to qualify for the continental women’s champions league. This was their second attempt after missing out on the maiden edition held in Egypt last year. The Liberian champions finished 3rd in the qualifying tournament that was played in Cape Verde, featuring four teams.
Three teams including Determine Girls, AS Mandé of Mali, and USPA of Senegal participated in this year’s edition. AS Mandé, winners of the last edition, were unlucky this year as they finished as runners-up with two points from two matches.
Determine Girls drew 1-1 in their first match against AS Mandé, who were forced to a goalless draw against USPA in their second outing of the tournament. Determine Girls will now represent the western zone A in Morocco next October/November.
As stated in our preview of the tournament, Bountou Sylla proved that she was a player to watch as she went on to win the MVP of the qualifying tournament and woman of the match in her team’s first match. The Guinean has promised to do everything to get media exposure at the main tournament in Morocco.
“We can’t imagine losing at home tonight, I’m very happy to have allowed Liberian football to be celebrated, we qualified for a major tournament. It is to the honour of the team but also of all the members of the technical staff and the leaders. It is a very beautiful day for Liberian football,” she said in the post-match interview.
Determine Girls goalkeeper, Jackie Touah, was named Best Goalkeeper of the tournament; Marième Babou of USPA, Woman of the Match; while AS Mandé received the Fair Play Team of the tournament.
Robert Lartey, coach of Determine Girls FC: “We succeeded, we reached our goal, I must thank my players, my family and give thanks to God. We worked well and above all, we succeeded in our mental preparation. It was not easy because of the many injuries but we had to make the players understand that it was possible. Thanks to the fans and the management. It’s a great day for Liberian football. This is the victory of Liberian football. Now we have qualified for the Champions League which is a major tournament, we still have to work to move forward.”
Jackie Touah of Determine Girls, best goalkeeper of the tournament: ”I thank God for having won this title which comes with a qualification in the Women’s Champions League. I gave everything I had for the success of the team. We know we have to give up nothing to win and have the opportunity to play in the Champions League.”
Marième Babou of US Parcelles Assainies, Woman of the Match: ”I’m happy with the title but I would have preferred to win the tournament to qualify for the Champions League. But it’s only a postponement, we just have to go back home and work harder to come back stronger.”Séréna Léna Gomis, coach of the US Parcelles Assainies: “First of all, we must congratulate the victorious and champion team, the Determine Girls, they played well and deserve this title.
In this Sunday’s match, we narrowly missed the finish. You have to see that we had the best chances in the game. But when you have chances and you score, you expose yourself. We will return home, and work more locally to win the championship. This is the only way to return to this qualifying tournament and try our luck again. The objective is obviously to qualify for Senegalese women’s football for the Champions League.”
Credit: Liberia Observer