SAFA Must Prioritise Advancing Women’s Football By Cheryl Roberts

14 Feb

If you raise critical questions about the state of women’s football in South Africa, the custodian of organised girls and women’s football in SA, the South African football Association will very quickly reply something about how they are ‘doing a lot’ for women’s football.

SAFA have, over the past two years, given more attention and budget to women’s football with the utilisation of experienced foreign women coaches, much more international matches for the senior national women’s team and doing on-time-payments to Banyana Banyana.

But, it’s the national women’s team, that has disappointed and hasn’t returned expected dividends from the investments.

Banyana didn’t qualify for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, they finished 4th at AWC in Namibia in 2014, they qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, a feat they had before accomplished under a male coach. They couldn’t score goals at the Olympics, despite having good international match preparation leading up to the Olympics, yet they scored at the 2012 London Olympics with a male coach at the helm.

They come back from the Olympics having played much more international matches and been in national camp much more than any other African women’s football playing country, yet Banyana displayed one of their worst performances at the 2016 AWC in Cameroon. At this prestige continental women’s football event, with a South African woman as interim head coach, Banyana Banyana finished in an embarassing 4th position; a tournament they were expected to win, given all the training and international matches they had done.

And then you get some SAFA officials falsely believing Banyana Banyana being the ‘best team’ at 2016 AWC; this despite a disgusting 4th position result. How can you be ‘the best team’ when you didn’t win or qualify for the finals? If you were the best team how come Banyana players were not signed up for the lucrative women’s football leagues outside of Africa?

That’s not all. Afer all their training and international matches, Banyana dropped to position 51 on FIFA’s women’s world rankings.

When will the national women’s football league be established so women footballers can play the sport full-time and get paid salaries instead of playing international football as part-timers? When will SAFA appoint coaches who can coach Banyana Banyana into a winning team on the African continent and take Banyana into the world’s top 20?

In my opinion, SAFA should rather shift focus on establishing the national women’s professional league, using the money spent on Banyana to develop much more depth of players. After a season of professional women’s football, talent identification should be done and a Banyana Banyana team/squad selected.

Forget about the present Banyana team; most are ageing and not delivering the international feats expected of them. Why concentrate on veteran players when they are nowhere near being world class and when the youth players have more chances of  being developed into world class footballers? Develop a young and emerging team instead of hoping for victories from a team taking up most of the national women’s football budget and not having the skills or football prowess to deliver. SAFA says look at Banyana’s reasults, they are losing by a few goals to the world’s best football countries. Is Banyana playing only to display how closely they lose so as to claim their improvement? No, it shouldn’t be like that! Look at Banyana’s performances in AWC events. The Banyana captain fortunately only now got an outside-of-Africa club signing. If she was of world class pedigree why didn’t she get one before, years ago? West Africa’s young women footballers are being signed up outside of Africa. Why about Banyana Banyana players?

And what about the u20 women’s and u17 girls teams? Why are they not in regular competition? Over the past two years, both women’s football youth teams didn’t qualify for their respective age group world cups. European countries are playing u17 internationals whilst South Africa’s youth women’s football teams are not engaged in international competition. Southern African football can’t even organise a nations cup tournament for u17 and u20 women’s football; yet Southern African women’s football is expected to advance in Africa.

Is SAFA’s  R6 million a year high performance training project in Pretoria really delivering the results? How do players get selected to be based at the high performance centre? Is it provincial recommendation or someone just contacts someone at SAFA and says ‘I have a teenage girl for the high performance centre’.

And then there’s the selection of national players, around which much discontent and anger exists amongst women footballers around South Africa. Club favouritsm in national selection of all women’s football teams must be eliminated! The best players must be chosen to play international football! As an example a team that has the most Banyana players at the national play-offs in December 2016 couldn’t win the SA title!

These critical questions are being raised and asked because we are being fed propaganda about the state of women’s football in SA under SAFA. An intelligent person with a sharp mind must be scouted and appointed to take women’s football forward in SA; someone with ideas that will advance elite women’s football. Is there a woman coach in SA that can make Banyana a winning team?  SAFA mustn’t hide these questions; they must answer them brutally, truthfully and honestly.

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

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