Super Falcons group rivals Benin have pulled out of the WAFU Women’s Cup, which kicks off on today in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, with officials saying the team are not ready for the competition.
Benin are now set to be replaced by Mali in Group B, which has favourites Nigeria, dark horses Senegal and Togo.
Group A has hosts Cote d’Ivoire, the other favourites Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Benin’s sudden withdrawal did not go down well with the players, who have been in camp since December preparing for the regional showpiece.
“It is really discouraging to once again be pulled out of a competition,” said Benin international Colombe Ahizikè.
“Three training sessions a day and at the last minute, we are told that we are not going to travel? We must discourage that.”
Vice-captain Nadège Atanhloueto echoed Ahizikè’s sentiments, adding: “In 2006, it was the same story, 2007 the same, 2012 and 2015 the same, and 2018 again?”
The Squirrels have been in camp for one month and a half, playing a number of friendlies against local sides.
They hammered Ifè Queens 10–1 on Saturday 20 January at the Rene Pleven Stadium then collected a 3–0 win over Houng Potentiel FC last Wednesday, 7 February.
“The women’s national team is not yet competitive,” said FBF President Anjorin Moucharafou on the decision to withdraw from the tournament.
“I understand their bitterness, that’s right. But you know, when you run a state business, you do not put sentiment.
“I want to impose the Benin label in football and so I have talked to the girls and told them that an appointment is made for next time.”
FBF did not enter the Squirrels in the qualifiers for the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations set to commence in April.
Therefore, the WAFU Cup withdrawal means the Squirrels, who have not played a match in over a decade, might need to wait much longer to return to the international stage.