Cleopatra Nketiah, a woman with a major footballing role within her nation.
I had a long discussion with Cleopatra Nketiah about the women’s game and her role within it. She is the owner of Ghanaian football club Ridge City F.C as well as being a board member of the Ghana Premier League. Thus, Cleopatra is a woman that is interested with all aspects and what the game can bring to people’s lives.
What’s your role in the Women’s Premier League in Ghana and what is your role at Ridge City F.C?
I am a committee (board) member of the Ghana Football Association’s (GFA) Women’s Premier League Committee. We manage the women’s premier league in Ghana. I am also a committee member of the Greater Accra Regional Football Association’s (GARFA) Women’s Division One League Committee. I also sit as the secretary of that committee. This committee is responsible for managing the women’s division one league in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.
I am also a co-founder and CEO of Ridge City Football Club Women.
Finally, I am a lawyer.
Can you tell me about Ridge City? Where do they play, what level do they play at, what role do they play in the community, how many trophies etc have they won and is there a men’s and women’s team?
Ridge City FC Women (RCFCW) is a women’s football club in Accra, Ghana. We play in the Division One League. RCFCW was founded in 2018 unfortunately due to a major football scandal (concerning the then GFA President at the time), around the same time the club was found, the playing of football leagues in Ghana was halted. It didn’t resume until November 2019. Our Division One League was due to start March 2020 when the pandemic hit and the football season was suspended. Unfortunately, up til now, the Women’s’ Division One League has still not resumed and therefore RCFCW is coming on 3 years of not playing any official matches since it was founded. We have however participated in numerous tournaments as well as friendlies and so far everything has been great.
We are the only women’s football club located in the community we play in (East Legon) and because of this, we have garnered the support of the locals in that community. We have also been able to recruit quite a number of women and girls in that area who did not know women’s football had a league and clubs they could play for.
What is the women’s game like in Ghana? Are more people attracted to the men’s game and are the English leagues watched with interest?
The women’s game is nothing new in Ghana. A lot of women and girls participate in it and enjoy watching it. It’s played all the way from kindergarten level to university level. Ghana has always encouraged the women’s game although not many women have had the chance to participate in football. There is a lot of stereotype about women who play football and this
discourages interested women and girls from participating. Some of these stereotypes include being labeled a tom boy, being called a lesbian (which is illegal in Ghana and therefore no one wants to be “accused” of that), being seen as illiterate because the perception is that literate people have better things to do than sports, and so on. Other factors that discourage women from playing football include there not being a clear career path for women in football and also the fact that over 90% of women who play their football in Ghana do not expect nor do they receive a salary. Unfortunately, there are a lot of drawbacks to the women’s game and a lot more can be done about it.
Men’s football is in a better position and is loved by a much wider population of Ghanaians although not everyone in the country is a big fan. The only time however that you’ll find at least 80% of the population enjoying the game Is when the national team is playing in the World Cup. On the club level, many people love the game however it has been tainted by a lot of factors such as how un-family friendly the stadiums are, and about how football seems to be dominated by a group of people who through corruption have been able to corner the market of buying and selling players amongst other things. Because of this, it’s much easier for most Ghanaians to prefer watching the English league and I can say that for every fan who is interested in watching a local league match, you will find 20 more who would prefer to watch the English premier league. The English Premier League as in other parts of the world is way popular than men’s football in Ghana and the Ghana game has a lot to catch up on.
Will you be keeping a careful interested eye on England’s women’s game if you haven’t been doing so already?
I have always been interested in the English women’s games. In fact when I used to live in London, I attended quite a number of games for Chelsea FC Women. Over the last year, that team has dominated women’s football and went over one calendar year without losing a match. It was amazing to watch as the new FA Player app has made it so much easier to follow their games and many others’ as well. At RCFCW, we encourage our players to watch and follow the careers of those playing in the UK and Europe as they have been through similar situations as the players at RCFCW have and have come out on top. One thing we hope to do is follow in their footsteps to aid us to build our game in Ghana.
Do you think that the women’s game will improve in the next few years? How and to what extent?
I think women’s football will massively improve. Firstly, FIFA is creating more chances for women to be involved in football not only on the playing level but also on the management and officiating level. Secondly, we have broadcasters such as Sky and BT agreeing to broadcast women’s football to the masses and to make it easily accessible which encourages the public to watch and fall in love with it. We also have apps such as the FA Player which allows you to stream for free, women’s football anywhere you are in the world. We also have the men’s teams supporting their women’s teams where clubs such as Chelsea, Spurs, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid allow the women to use their stadium and before the pandemic, allowing women to see record breaking attendance during those games.
We will soon be getting to the point where it will be difficult to talk about men’s clubs without mentioning the women’s clubs and the successes that the women’s clubs bring to the men’s name. I am hoping it gets to the extent that we will move from the current situation whereby the highest paid female football earns $400,000 a year, an amount which Messi and the likes make in a week. I am hoping it improves and I’m sure it will improve to the point where having women fight to participate in the game is not the exception but the norm.
Does Ghana have a women’s national team? Who are the best Ghana women footballers?
We have national teams on the U15 and U17 level as well as the senior side, Black Queens. There a lot of women’s footballers in Ghana unfortunately, due to the lack of publicity and visibility the women’s game receives, only a few of the players are known and are therefore classified as the best women footballers but in actual fact, I could say I have seen much more amazing talent that need help to be unearthed. Currently however, the best women’s footballer in Ghana would be Elizabeth Addo who plays her football in the USA and is currently the captain of the national team, Black Queens. Another player who is also exceptional is Milot Pokua who plays for Hassacas Ladies, a women’s premier league club in Ghana.
What more do you think can be done in England to improve the women’s game? Do you think more will/should be interested in the near future?
The broadcasting of women’s matches by easily and widely accessible stations such as Sky and BT Sports is the first step. The production of more competitions for the women to participate in too helps. Like the men, maybe the women can also participate in pre-season games where they travel around the country at least or the world, to gain the exposure they need. It would be great if the English women’s team reached out to other foreign teams/clubs to join forces to promote football. People may not support their local women’s teams or clubs until they see how it has improved the lives of other women internationally. In helping foreign clubs to be recognized, it also helps with their visibility, and they will in turn have foreign and international supporters.
The support and encouragement of girls in football must also be vastly improved. IF a career path can be created for girls in football and that path actually works and is sustainable, a lot more girls would be interested and a lot more parents would encourage their girls to play.
Apart from the playing of football, it’s also very important to educate and empower women to participate in football on all levels. Marketing, Coaching, Physio, Administration, Business end. There are so many ways women could participate in football. It is important to get women in places where decision making on women’s football is being taken because who else to better fight for and know what the women’s game needs if not a woman.
Ridge City Football Club.