Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

WAFCON 2022: four debutants eyeing big moves after performances

Posted on 22 July 2022 by Alasdair Howorth
Image courtesy of CAF Media.

Tournaments are always the best market place for players looking for a move. There is no easier way to get a move, than playing well in a tournament watched by the world. This is far more relevant for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations than many others.

Because of the lack of money, TV access and coverage of local leagues, the continental tournament can be a once in a lifetime chance for players to get a good career move. Here are four players who made their WAFCON debut that the Sports Gazette’s writers think will get big moves off the back of their performances.

Fatima Tagnaout

Top of the list is a player with one of the highest ceilings at this tournament who has been wowing the thousands of Moroccans watching every home match.

Tagnaout is a classy winger who can play on the left, but prefers to play on the right wing, where she can cut onto her stronger left foot to cross or shoot.

Image courtesy of CAF Media.

The 23-year-old grew up playing football on the streets of Casablanca and that comes through in her football for the national team. She is quick and direct at moments, but what sets her apart from other quick wingers is her intelligent movement. She loves to drift into pockets of space, in particular when linking up with Ghizlane Chebbak.

On top of that, Tagnaout is an excellent dead ball specialist. She claimed both assists in Morocco’s quarter-final victory over Botswana from near identical freekick crosses.

She has played her entire career at Moroccan champions AS FAR Rabat, winning seven league titles and six Throne Cups. She first played on the continental stage last season with FAR in the first edition of the CAF WCL where the Moroccan club came third.

Having been a fully-fledged professional for a couple of years at FAR and now receiving elite coaching from former UEFA Champions League winner Reynald Pedros, she is ready to make a move to Europe and test herself at the highest level of club football.

Asha Djafari

Burundi were perhaps the smallest side to ever partake at an AFCON for either the men’s or women’s finals. They came into the tournament having only existed for six years, only being ranked by FIFA in the last year and as the lowest side to have ever played at a men’s or women’s AFCON at 169th in the world.

They were the only side to lose all three games, but there were some brave performances and one shinning standout player in Asha Djafari. At 24 Djafari is the captain of the Swallows and one of their most experienced, players, as well as undoubtedly their stand out player.

https://twitter.com/257Foot/status/1529152608824442881

The winger showed incredible quality in a side that was clearly out of their depth against Nigeria and South Africa. She possesses an electric turn of pace, but also excellent technique. Often in the matches against Nigeria and South Africa she would drop into midfield, win freekicks or start attacks on her own to alleviate the pressure on her team.

Despite not scoring at the tournament herself, she single-handedly created two of Burundi’s three goals. The third goal came from a knock down from her corner.

The Burundian was top scorer in the Tanzanian Women’s Premier League, notching up 27 goals for champions Simba Queens. Despite the growing strength of the WPL, Djafari has a much higher level that she can reach and should be looking for a move abroad before the new season starts.

Shamirah Nalugya

Uganda came into the WAFCON having not played in the competition for 22 years and they played with that naivety. Despite playing some of the best football of the group stage in spells, they left the tournament before any other team and with only one point from their last game against Burkina Faso.

However, in the heart of their young midfield was 18-year-old Shamirah Nalugya. The youngster was thrown into the action, playing against a powerful Senegalese midfielder before playing against finalists Morocco who have within their ranks the player of the tournament Ghizlane Chebbak.

Image courtesy of FUFA Media.

But Nalugya, sporting her dyed red hair, more than held her own in such illustrious company. She is very strong, with a low centre of gravity, allowing her to deal with the robust challenges that feature in the WAFCON. But what set her apart was her quality on the ball.

She was constantly dribbling past the Moroccans, under pressure and then releasing teammates up the pitch. She was the heart of a Uganda side that played a very attractive brand of transitional football, capping off her tournament with two assists in their final match against Burkina Faso.

She has been rumoured to be linked with a move to Europe and hopefully she will get that move. She has the potential to become one of East Africa’s best midfielders.

Refilwe Tholakele

The oldest player on this list, Tholakele inspired her Botswana side to the quarterfinals of the tournament in their first ever appearance.

It is hard to define Tholakele as a player because she has effectively played in every position in midfield and attack throughout the tournament, and shown herself to be Botswana’s best player in all them.

Image courtesy of CAF Media.

Often starting off as a forward, Tholakele had the joyless task of playing up front in complete isolation, as Botswana played three of the four semi-finalists as well as Cameroon.

And she played that role superbly. In all of Botswana’s matches she was their sole outlet. Dropping deep to retain possession before springing counter attacks, she has the footballing intelligence to know when to pick out a long diagonal or when to take on her opponent.

On top of that she has a powerful shot from distance. She was directly involved in three of Botswana’s five goals including a brace against Burundi which sent them to the quarterfinals.

Tholakele still plies her trade for local side Township Rollers, who came second in the last league season, but she has been linked with a move to the Swedish top flight.