Sierra Queens - Sierra Leone women's national football team

The Sierra Leone women's national football team represents Sierra Leone in international women's association football. The team is governed by the Sierra Leone Football Association and is part of the Confederation of African Football. Sierra Leone has played only four FIFA recognised matches, two in 1994 and two in 2010. The country has under-17 and under-20 women's national sides. The development of women's football in Sierra Leone faces challenges present throughout the continent. Domestically, it faces its own issues including the lack of a women's domestic competition and the decline in popularity of the sport amongst women.

Sierra Leone women's national football team is nicknamed the Sierra Queens. In 1985, almost no country in the world had a women's national football team, including Sierra Leone who did not play their first matches until around 1994 when they participated in the qualification phase of the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup. In a game in Nigeria on 6 November 1994, Sierra Leone women's national football team lost 0–9 to Nigeria after being down 0–6 at the half. In a game in Freetown on 20 November 1994, Sierra Leone women's national football team lost 0–2 to Nigeria after being down 0–2 at the half. These two games represent half of all games the team has played in its history. The team's other two games took place during the preliminary rounds of the 2010 Women's Championship tournament in Africa which was part of the Olympic qualification process, where Sierra Leone lost during the preliminary round once 2–3 to Guinea in Conakry on 7 March 2010 and tied Guinea 1–1 in Freetown on 20 March 2010. Following this match, the team did not play an international match on any level for at least a year and did not participate 2011 All Africa Games. In March 2012, Sierra Leone was ranked the 135th best in the world and the 26th best in Africa. They improved their ranking to 130th best in the world in June 2012 but at still at the bottom of the world rankings alongside 46 other women's national teams. The team's best ever rank was 128th, which was in 2010, and their worst ever ranking was 136, which they were ranked in 2011.

Background and development

Early development of the women's game at the time colonial powers brought football to Sierra Leone and the continent was limited, as colonial powers in the region tended to take concepts of patriarchy and women's participation in sport with them to local cultures that already had similar concepts already embedded in them. Other factors on the continent impact the development of the game, including limited access to education, poverty amongst women in the wider society, and fundamental inequality present in the society that occasionally allows for female specific human rights abuses. When quality players are developed in Africa, they often leave for greater opportunities elsewhere Continent wide; most of the funding for women's football in a country and for the women's national team comes from FIFA, not the national football association. Future success for women's football in Africa is dependent on improved facilities and access by women to these facilities. Attempting to commercialise the game is not the solution, as demonstrated by the existence of many youth and women's football camps held on the continent that have resulted in improved national team performance as players progressed through the system.

The United Nations ranked Sierra Leone 180 out of 187 on their Human Development Index. One of the major factors in this low world ranking was gender inequality. Despite a civil war in the country, football remained important to many young people, regardless of gender, in the country. The reason was that football was seen as one way of understanding life by watching what happened on the pitch. In 2007, a football administrator from the country is in charge of the women's football committee in the West African Football Union. In 2011, Brazilian women's football superstar Marta visited the country and met with the national team. Her visit was part of the United Nations Development Programme where Marta is a Goodwill Ambassador. In 2011, there was no national women's league in the country.  In 2012, Girls Football League was launched by the Craig Bellamy Foundation after a pilot programme in 2010/2012 in Makeni that included four teams. Girls participating in the programme are given scholarships to attend, with 93% attending school regularly while involved with the programme, a much higher percentage than the national average for female school attendance.

Women are football spectators, watching live games in rural and remote areas of the country. Rights to broadcast the 2011 Women's World Cup in the country were bought by the African Union of Broadcasting and Supersport International. The popularity of the sport is declining in the country for women.

FIFA Ranking