Wanted Urgently: An Objective, Unbiased Coach For Banyana Banyana By Cheryl Roberts

11 Oct

South Africa’s women’s football team will be participating in the 2016 edition of the African Women’s Championship (AWC), to be hosted by Cameroon. The draw for the elite continental women’s event, featuring eight qualifying countries including hosts Cameroon, has already been done. Banyana Banyana knows their opponents and who they must beat to win the championship. But Banyana Banyana is without a head coach and assistants. And everyone associated with women’s football in South Africa is keenly awaiting the selection of the next Banyana Banyana head coach.

Why is SAFA taking so long to appoint a head coach when the priority of selection and training a national women’s team should have started not only yesterday but the day before?

It appears that the national coaches are under consideration but consensus on who should be appointed can’t be reached. This is because there are two opposing camps of support for women’s football within SAFA. One camp, led by veteran and what I refer to as the cabal controlling women’s football in SAFA, is Fran Hilton-Smith. This camp wants Desiree Ellis, the former assistant coach to head coach, Vera Pauw to be appointed Banyana head coach.

The other camp, led by SAFA’s women’s football co-ordinator, Nomsa Mahlangu believes the head coach should go to Thinasonke Mbuli, head coach of SA tertiary sport women’s football team with her assistant being waiting-in-the-wings- for a national coaching position, Maud Khumalo.

Outside of women’s football, I have been writing about what I perceive as a cabal of a few women controlling women’s football. This cabal appoints their friends and those in their camp as coaches and selectors and they favour player selection from Gauteng-based football teams. Coaches of women football teams and Sasol League players have had enough of the manner in which Banyana selections and call-ups are done. Coaches who best know the players are never consulted; one selector decides who shall be called up from a province without consultation and in the case. Women footballers want a chance to be selected, to be noticed and they’ve had enough of biased selections and the ‘wrong’ players being selected to play for Banyana Banyana.

If anything, the first demand of the Banyana Banyana head coach is for a woman football coach. Together with this appointment should be a coach who is not into favouritism, a coach who will place the national team as priority, ahead of regional and team favourites. The Banyana Banyana head coach must understand that women’s football is played throughout South Africa, not only in Gauteng! She must have assistant selectors around the country ands she must liase with team coaches, asking them to inform her about player’s form and prowess.

We want a national team out of South Africa, not a national women’s football predominantly out of Gauteng.

Begin to develop a team with the future as the objective; this means select the young, emerging internationals, together with some experienced players. There is no sense in playing a team of veteran, highly capped players who can’t score goals and can’t win. Banyana Banyana’s priority goals are qualification for the 2019 women’s world cup and 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Discard players who can’t take the team forward and bring in the talents of younger players.

From the outside, my view is that the Banyana Banyana head coach should go to a woman coach. That coach should be Thinasonke Mbuli, head coach of the tertiary sport women’s football team, with her assistants being Marion February and Maud Khumalo. I’m recommending CAF A license coach, February because she’s not attached to any women’s football team, has been a highly successful Western Cape u19 coach and Khumalo is also a CAF A license coach who should be given a national coaching position. All three women haven’t been associated with the ‘Vera Pauw coaching era’ so Pauw’s coaching stint will have nothing on them. These women coaches will start off on a new footing, young coach Thinasonke Mbuli will be fresh, alert energetic, keen to prove her worth.

Give these three women coaches the opportunity and confidence to coach Banyana Banyana, give them a supportive and enabling environment to work in and hopefully excel.

To achieve winning results, Banyana Banyana has got to play much more internationals against higher ranking teams. In the absence of a national professional league for women’s football, how about Banyana players being nationally contracted for a year and several training camps out of South Africa being undertaken, together with many friendly internationals?

SAFA’s technical committee must not be moved by favouritism or motives from the cabal that controls women’s football in South Africa. Break the cabal’s influence on women’s influence. Look at how national coaches and selectors have performed with the u17 and u20 women’s teams; both teams didn’t qualify for their respective world cups.

The women football coaches are there! Appoint them and support them. And stamp out favouritism in team and player selection. South Africa has talented women footballers throughout the country. Look at the players and put together the best Banyana Banyana team.

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photograph by Cheryl Roberts

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