It’s imperative that corporate South Africa buys into this project which will go a long way in improving the standard of football in the country. But even with all the money in the world, the women’s national league will not succeed if the South African Football Association (Safa) doesn’t change their attitude towards women’s football. At the moment they treat it more as a burden than a responsibility. Their failures in the Sasol League are an example of that. The administration of that league is shambolic.
Safa fails to do some basic things that require sound administration and more importantly, respecting the women who play the beautiful game with little or no remuneration. It’s a norm for teams to receive their winnings late and for referees to not arrive in time or not at all for Sasol League matches.
But what touched me the most and made me skeptical about the women’s league is Safa’s treatment of Refiloe Jane and Rhoda Mulaudzi. The pair, who signed for Canberra United, needed about R27 000 for flights to Australia and meals once they were down under for their two-week trial. The association that’s sponsored by the South African Airways did nothing to help the pair. I was torn when Jane told me how they had to beg for money, do their own visa applications and fend for themselves in Australia.
It’s not Safa’s responsibility to help players go to trials. But when those players are paid peanuts and have served the country with distinction, the least you could do is meet them halfway. The treatment Jane and Mulaudzi received is shameful. The irony is how quick Safa were to congratulate them on their moves when they couldn’t be bothered to help them in their time of need.
I asked Jane if she considered quitting the national team after this ordeal and her answer surprised me. She remains committed to the cause and even played in the Cosafa Women’s Championship that ends today, despite her club wanting her to come to Australia instead of playing in the tournament. Jane is a perfect example of how much women who play for Banyana give and give but their efforts and contribution aren’t respected.
Jane is a better person than me. I would have given Safa the middle finger and sailed to Australia. Why give your all to an organisation that can’t do the bare minimum for you? Mind you, Canberra promised to reimburse Jane and Mulaudzi for their ticket flights should they earn contracts. So the money that would have been given to them would be an investment because they will grow with this move overseas.
This goes beyond money, it’s about respect and sadly Safa haven’t consistently respected women in football. You can’t expect people to invest millions in a project that you don’t respect. Safa needs to change their attitude towards women’s football. The sad part is that it’s the women who give their all who suffer from the acts of bureaucrats in suits.
I hope that the women’s league is a success. It’s the responsibility of all South Africans to ensure that’s the case, from us the media to the supporters, corporate South Africa and more importantly Safa.
* Ngidi is a football writer for New Frame