Interim Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has assembled a competent squad to challenge for honours in the regional Cosafa Cup in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, starting on Wednesday, that she believes will convince corporate South Africa to invest in women’s football for the establishment of a professional set-up.
South African Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan bemoaned the fact that except for Bloemfontein Celtic and Mamelodi Sundowns, none of the South African professional clubs have a women’s team in their ensemble and he believes that if the country’s top clubs could adopt women’s sides, women’s football would prosper.
“The previous Banyana coach, Vera Pauw, made it crystal clear that our girls will almost always play second fiddle to the rest of the world, largely because we do not have a professional set-up in the country,” said Jordaan, who stressed that a 12-team professional league would be established in the country next year.
“Our national women’s teams only assemble when there is an international fixture on the horizon.
“As a result, our girls are always found wanting in terms of their physical conditioning because you cannot expect them to hold their own against girls that play regularly on a weekly basis,” the Safa chief explained.
Yet, despite the set-back, Ellis is determined to showcase the country’s talent with the squad she has selected.
They depart for Bulawayo determined to win the regional competition and encourage business houses in South Africa to consider investing in the women’s game.
“Africa has only started taking baby steps in women’s football and we have not just been overtaken by Europe and the United States but even Asia has vastly improved due to the fact that authorities in those countries take women’s football seriously,” said Ellis.
“You can see in major competitions like the World Cup or even the Olympic Games that while our girls can display their natural skills effortlessly, technically and sometimes physically we are still way behind the Europeans and Americans,” she added.
Several key members of the squad have been left out due to various reasons, with others busy in preparations for their final year examinations, others nursing an assortment of injuries while more are attending school in either Europe or the US.
The South Africans have been paired with Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana in Group C of the tournament that will be staged at the iconic Bourbefield Stadium near Luveve, a venue where the legendary Peter Ndlovu used to mesmerise spectators while turning out for Highlanders.