Where To For Women’s Football In South Africa? By Cheryl Roberts

21 Dec

Women’s football in South Africa is growing and SAFA must respond with interventions that ensure healthy development of girl’s football advancement and positive performance results for the senior national team. Despite South Africa having participated in the Rio Olympics, 2016 hasn’t yielded the positive results that should have been forthcoming, given the amount of money spent on the national women’s team. The team Banyana Banyana couldn’t even medal at the African women’s Championship in Cameroon after SAFA has spent the most money on girls and women’s football than any other African country.

Amidst the passionate calls and pleas for a professional national league that will allow women footballers to pursue football full-time instead of part-time and recreational football, SAFA has to look at the administration and development of women’s football. No longer can women’s football be treated as a developing age group like boys under 15 and under 17 football.

Women’s football is a gender in sport, not an age group; it demands not only adequate and sufficient resources, support and financial investment but the necessary attention.

SA women’s football has been in world football for over 20 years; it must show much better results. Dominating Southern African women’s football is good but not enough. It’s the African champion status and African top three ranking which is required to demonstrate improvement. And then it’s the world ranking which should see Banyana Banyana in the top 20 in the world.

Firstly, SAFA should appoint a knowledgeable, smart-thinking person who has brain power and ideas to improve women’s football. This person must have no personal interest or attachment to a women’s football club or players because that’s when the favouritism arises and players, selectors and coaches get appointed based on their relationship with who is in charge of the appointments. Why has former international footballer Portia Modise not been given a coaching position with the under 17 girls team. Yes, Portia Modise must get her coaching certificates, but leaving that aside, her experience and influence on girl footballers is greater than paper certificates. South Africa’s girl footballers respect players like Portia Modise and recently retired Banyana internationals, yet SAFA insists on appointing the near-retirement, middle age coaches just because they have been around in the game for long periods. Fresh and new perspectives on turning around women’s football in SA are needed and some of the best inputs can be attained from the young women coaches and administrators of women’s football teams.

I’ve been writing much about the state of women’s football in South Africa, calling out the women’s cabal controlling women’s football and calling out the invisibility of black African women coaches and selectors. Towards the latter part of this year, we saw SAFA announcing black African women coaches and selectors for Banyana Banyana and the under 20 team. However, the most suitable and best coaches are not being appointed.

Banyana Banyana participated in the Rio Olympics, didn’t win a match in the group matches and didn’t proceed to the knockout stage as was expected of them, given that the national team was in training most of the time and played several international friendlies, leading up to the Olympics.

Banyana Banyana should have won the African women’s championship in Cameroon; they have been the best supported African women’s football team over the past few years with their foreign coaches. But Banyana were terribly disappointing, finishing fourth because they were unable to beat three West African opponents. For how long will Banyana Banyana be considered ‘as an improving team’, yet they can’t medal at the continental championships?

What does Banyana need to ensure their first world cup participation will be achieved in 2018? Are SA’s women coaches capable of turning Banyana into a world cup team? The women coaches have the certificates but those coaching certificates don’t mean much if the coaches can’t turn the team into a winning team that scores goals to win matches.

What about girls and young women’s development in football? Over the past few years, SAFA concentrated on supporting Banyana Banyana but neglected development of the under 17 girls team, the nursery of the senior women’s football team.

SA’s u17 girls team qualified for and participated in a girls u17 world cup. What has since happened that the u17 girls team has not qualified again? How is the u17 girls team expected to improve and be match ready when they don’t even play international friendlies? Africa was represented by West African teams, at the u17 girls and u20 women’s world cups, held this year. These young players have gained considerable international and world cup experience, unlike South Africa.

The under 20 team wins the Region 5 Games featuring Southern African women’s football teams. But then again, South Africa is expected to be the best in youth women’s football in Southern Africa because they have a full-time high performance centre where the girl footballers are based.

And what about the coaching positions of the women’s u20 team and Banyana Banyana? U20 coach Sheryl Botes has proven that she can coach a winning team, at least at Southern Africa level. Is it not opportune at this juncture, to give Sheryl Botes the Banyana coaching job, to mandate her to get Banyana to qualify for the 2019 women’s world cup? Botes has been working with the girl footballers and girls’s football teams for very long. She is SA’s qualified and experienced woman football coach. She should be given the Banyana coaching position to see if she can take Banyana to higher levels.

Those involved with women’s football clubs and teams still feel that national player selection is not fair, that players’ talent is not properly scouted and recognised and that player favouritism rules selection. If the team doesn’t deliver and win matches should the coach or players be replaced? It’s the coach who agrees on the squad/team, so the coach must account for her selections! Either the coach is not up to it or the players must be replaced.

Given the performances of the national u17 girls team, under 20 women’s team and Banyana, over the past four years, it’s difficult to know that SAFA has a blueprint in place to develop girls and women’s football in South Africa. Girls and youth football should be developed so the players can be moulded into international players who can score goals and win matches, at senior level.

Most importantly, SAFA must change the administrators and officialdom of women’s football in South Africa. New voices, energy, input, perspectives are needed!

 

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