Pressing Issues: Women’s football has made huge strides, but more still needs to be done

S'Busiso Mseleku
S'Busiso Mseleku

It’s in proper order to firstly wish our national women’s football team Banyana Banyana good luck in their Africa Women Cup of Nations finals campaign.

The tournament started yesterday and ends on December 1.

Today, as fate would have it, our team will open their campaign against their nemesis, the Nigerian Falcons – a squad that has, in the past, given them as much trouble as it has their male counterparts Bafana Bafana, who played against the west Africans in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at FNB Stadium yesterday.

As Banyana start their campaign today, the South African Women’s Under-17 side, Bantwana, are two thirds the way through their 2018 Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup campaign, which is taking place in Paraguay.

Bantwana opened with a goalless draw against a highly ranked Mexico on Tuesday, but came a cropper on Friday, losing 6-0 to former world champions Japan.

This is worrisome ahead of their Tuesday game against another former world champion side – Brazil – in the final Group B match.

The chances of Bantwana qualifying are now slim to non-existent as they prop up the group with a single point, following the minus six goal difference.

Senior women’s team Banyana need to finish among the medallists – in the top three – to qualify for the month-long Fifa Women’s World Cup, taking place in France from June 7 to July 7.

This means that all three of their opening Group B matches – comprising today’s encounter against Nigeria, the game against Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday and Saturday’s final group-stage game against Zambia – are important.

Topping the group or coming second will guarantee Banyana a place in the semifinals, where they will have to beat their opponents to finish in the top three.

The fact that Banyana are at the continental tournament and Bantwana are participating in the World Cup is laudable as this is a sure sign of
improvement in South African women’s football.

The planned introduction of a national women’s league by Safa next year signals another giant leap forward in the development of women’s football.

Sponsor Sasol should be applauded for backing not only Banyana, but also the Sasol Women’s League.

It has proved to be a good corporate South African citizen when it comes to the development of local football.

Do you remember the company’s long relationship with our Under-23 national team that led to the team being baptised AmaGlug-Glug, thanks to a Sasol TV advert that was popular at the time?

Despite Friday’s 6-0 loss to Japan, the fact that Bantwana are participating in a global event while big sisters Banyana Banyana start their campaign in the continental tournament is proof that women’s football has made huge strides in this country.

One just wishes that more companies would see the value in sponsoring women’s football.

It is sad that, despite these successes, women footballers still earn far less than their under-performing male counterparts at national level.

This is an anomaly that needs to be corrected!

Safa vice-president Ria Ledwaba, who has been put in charge of women’s football, faces a huge challenge in rectifying the wrongs of the past.

She needs a lot of help and support from other top woman football administrators, including Mato Madlala, Anastasia Tsichlas, Nomsa Mahlangu, Emma Hendricks and others.

There is also a need for change in the mind-set of men – both the players and those who run football clubs.

Unless we have this shift, the status quo will remain and it will be to the detriment of women’s football.

Since the dawn of democracy in South Africa in 1994, there has been a drive towards an equal opportunities society.

This is the right vision, but it has to be seen to be done.

And there is still a lot of work that needs to be done until we reach such a utopia.

The country needs all shoulders to the wheel on this one to reach the desired goal.

. Follow me on Twitter @Sbu_Mseleku


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