Selection Of South Africa’s Women Football Players Raises Concerns By Cheryl Roberts

25 Feb

There is much despondency and unhappiness about national selections for South Africa’s various women’s football teams, two of them being Banyana Banyana and the SA under 20 women’s team. I speak to many people involved in women’s football and I also observe women’s football. I am not a member of a women’s football club; I’m on the outside. And from this outside position, I observe much negatives occurring in women’s football in SA. I raise these concerns because we want the best for women’s football, for girl footballers to be inspired, for layers and coaches to feel they all belong to the women’s football family and that selections are not regionally biased or favoured.

I’ve watched and observed how selections are done for national women’s football teams and, in my opinion, we are not looking at the vast talent available. The national coaches don’t look at talent around the country and they don’t know what is available. How do you explain only one player being selected from SAFA Western Cape to represent Banyana Banyana at the Cyprus Cup next month when SAFA WC won the SA u19 title and SAFA CT’s Cape Town Roses are the SA champs? And, the other example is the SA under 20 women’s team that did not have one player from the champion region that is SAFA WC.

I am not a regionally biased person; I am not speaking here just for one region. I am using SAFA WC as an example as it’s a very real example. What about players and coaches from other regions?

Then there’s Banyana Banyana, the national women’s team. Vera Pauw, a qualified coach with strong football credentials got appointed as SA’s first women’s football coach. I thought this was a positive appointment.  As head coach, one of  Pauw’s mandates was to qualify SA for their first women’s world cup. That didn’t happen in Namibia in October 2014. You can’t blame the coach, I said, if the players don’t score goals and win matches. Re-appoint Vera Pauw, I said, so women’s football can go forward.

Vera Pauw was re-appointed women’s football coach. About a week ago, four months after the African Women’s Championship in Namibia, SAFA announced that Banyana Banyana were to participate in the Cyprus nations cup in March. Pauw called up 30 players and announced a 21 member team to travel to Cyprus.

Firstly, selections in sport never satisfy everyone. As followers/armchair coaches/supporters/fans of a sport we always think we know who should be selected. My opinion of this Banyana squad is that it’s an ageing squad, that several of these players failed to perform in the AWC and contributed to SA not qualifying for the women’s football world cup.

A coach is in charge; they should know what team they think has the best chance of performing and winning. Should this Banyana Banyana team not perform and win matches at the Cyprus Cup, what are the likely reasons we can expect? One of them will be that Banyana is out of training and match pay because they last played in Namibia; they need much more international matches at this level.

The question is: how much longer do you try to go forward with a team of players that isn’t achieving what is set out to be achieved? Surely the squad gets reviewed, out go the non-performing players, and in come the latest selections, especially the emerging players?

I do believe that Banyana Banyana coach Vera Pauw is knowledgeable, that she wants Banyana to achieve positive international results and that she wants more support for women’s football in SA. But the horrendous reality is that the national coach doesn’t know what talent is available around South Africa because she has seen very little women’s football in the country. Pauw is based in Gauteng, has been in Cape Town once, where she saw two matches. Pauw was present at the Sasol national championship in Port Elizabeth where she saw the final between Cape Town Roses and Super Falcons. It could be that she was so busy preparing Banyana Banyana for the AWC that’s he couldn’t also scout and observe talent around SA.

South Africa was represented by an under 20 women’s football team at the Southern African Games in Zimbabwe in December. I was shocked to see that the team didn’t one player from the Western Cape. After all, SAFA WC had won the under 19 SA inter-provincial in Limpopo and Sasol League team Cape Town Roses, one of the country’s top women’s football teams, has several u20 players.

I wanted to know how this team was selected. I asked around, no one from WC football seemed to know about how the u20 women’s team got selected. I asked SAFA employee, Fran Hilton Smith how the team got selected. She said that SAFA said there is no budget for this competition which meant no trials, no training camps. The team’s participation in the Games was being paid for by SASCOC. Within SAFA, and amongst some employees, it was decided to select an under 20 women’s football teams from players based at the high performance team so that women’s football could be represented at the Games in Zimbabwe. All other players around SA were not considered because here was ‘no money’ to conduct trials. SAFA knew these Games were being held, that women’s football would be part of the Games. Why was team selection not done earlier? How can you exclude youth players from around SA, whom participate in football, many are very talented, several should be representing SA in various age groups. SA won the tournament. But please remember that Southern Africa women’s football is much weaker than SA.

I’m concerned about this state of affairs when it comes to selection because what is happening is that women’s football seems to be a Gauteng-based affair. How do talented players and coaches, playing and coaching outside of Gauteng and Northern parts of SA, get recognized and selected? Players get called up to the Banyana squad and are given one two or three days to show what they can do. Then the selection committee decides that the players don’t have what it takes to play for Banyana. But how do you judge players on this once-off performance?  The players are playing regular football competition for their clubs and are displaying football prowess.

These concerns must be raised because it’s unhealthy for the future development of women’s football in SA and because player identification is not being done. Players and coaches are despondent. They want to know what they must do to get national attention.

In my opinion, we support the national women’s team, believe in the coaching and selection panel. Should you achieve dismal results, like no victories and goals at the Cyprus Cup, and a few matches thereafter, then the coach must be assessed and the non-performing players, not called up for representation. We don’t have time for excuses like the team needs more international friendlies. SA has a foundation of emerging youth women players, waiting to play international football. Select these players and give them chances to represent and demonstrate their football talent. We want SA’s women’s football teams to go forward, not backwards.

 Picture 219

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