A jubilant Banyana Banyana team after their COSAFA Cup championship title win in Zimbabwe. Photo: BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG  – Banyana Banyana have spent over a year without a permanent head coach since Vera Pauw left the post after the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Mind you, the South African Football Association (Safa) knew before the Games ended in August that the Dutch coach’s contract wouldn’t be renewed after the global showpiece. This would be unacceptable for a junior national team. 

The fact that it’s happening in the senior national team is not only disrespectful but downright disgraceful. You would expect that Safa would be looking to make amends after turning the search for Shakes Mashaba’s replacement into a farce as the process stretched for five months.

But that would be ambitious. 

Mashaba was, after all, fired in December, four months after Pauw’s contract ended; his replacement Stuart Baxter was appointed in May and Baxter was almost sacked while Banyana were still waiting for a permanent coach. 

During that time the association have stringed Desiree Ellis along even though they weren’t prepared to hire her on a permanent basis. 

She was asked to lead the side in the interim at the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon last year, finished fourth and spent the better part of this year not knowing whether she was coming or going before she was again asked to take the senior women’s side to the Cosafa Cup in Zimbabwe. 

She returned with the trophy. She still doesn’t know where she stands even after chief executive Dennis Mumble said she is part of the three shortlisted for the job after they failed to get their preferred candidate.

Ellis would have never said no despite the uncertainty, such is her love for the country and the national team. 

She once chose unemployment over Banyana when she was given an ultimatum to choose between her job and representing her country. It’s people like Ellis that Safa and South Africa as a whole have let down in our bad treatment of Banyana. 

There are players who juggle jobs and studies to play for the national team. 

I remember Sanah Mollo telling me that there were days when she had to work 12 hours in her marketing job to make up for the time she lost in camp and how she strategically took her leave to be with Banyana which saw her work in days and months that most people spend on holiday or relaxing with their families. She did all of this out of love.

The disappointment in Safa goes beyond than just the process of naming a permanent coach that has dragged on over a year. 

It’s also about the poor treatment the women who sacrifice so much get from an organisation that should be taking good care of them. 

It’s understandable why there are financial discrepancies between Banyana and Bafana as most sponsors go for the men’s team which is why Sasol’s involvement in the women’s game must be commendable. 

But the gap shouldn’t be this big. Safa should also lead by example in their treatment of Banyana not only because it’s their job but to present a good image to appeal to other sponsors.

The public and media also should be doing more to support Banyana so that the women’s game is played to capacity crowds and more people are aware of it. 

That would make it more marketable and more sponsors would come on board. This coaching search debacle should be the catalyst for improving the treatment of the women’s game.

Safa announced that next year they will launch a national women’s league featuring teams from each province, a university team along with Bloemfontein Celtic and Mamelodi Sundowns. 

It’s a step in the right direction in taking the game forward as there is plenty of talent around. Jermaine Seoposenwe’s exploits in the US and the growing number of our players earning contracts abroad is further testament to that.

The success of the women’s league requires all of us involved in the game to pull our weight, from Safa to the media and the public. 

We shouldn’t just complain but we should complain and then act. 

I have friends who moan about the treatment of Banyana but none of them have ever been to watch a single match live despite entrance being free. 

They’re part of the many couch and online activists who have a lot to complain about but don't lift a finger to change that problem. 

We must change that culture.

Saturday Star

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