South Africa coach Desiree Ellis and her Banyana Banyana players made history by qualifying for the World Cup after their efforts at Awcon. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

DURBAN – After an impressive 2018 where they successfully defended the Cosafa Cup, which was succeeded by a maiden qualification for the World Cup through Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon), Banyana Banyana were rewarded for their achievements at the Caf Annual Award Ceremony in Senegal on Tuesday night.

Desiree Ellis and Thembi Kgatlana walked away with the Women’s Coach of the Year and Women’s Player of the Year awards respectively. Furthermore, Kgatlana’s strike against Nigeria in their Awcon opener was publicly voted as the Goal of the Year. 

We take a look at what this recognition means for South African women’s football.

Strong message ahead of maiden World Cup 

Banyana’s dominance in continental football was inevitable. Prior to last year’s historic Awcon tournament, they had already made 12 appearances, which included four finals. In Ghana, one of the two missing puzzles was completed as they secured their first World Cup spot after beating Mali 2-0 in the last four. On the other hand, their chase for their first piece of silverware at the Awcon continued as they succumbed to Nigeria in the lottery of penalties in the final. 

However, the fact that they were the big winners at the Caf annual awards was a huge morale booster leading to the global showpiece in France in June. In addition, this was a strong message to their counterparts that they won’t be making up numbers in the tournament.

Desiree Ellis received the Women's coach of the Year award from FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura. Photo: EPA
Desiree Ellis received the Women's coach of the Year award from FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura. Photo: EPA

Banyana's success deserves corporate backing 

While Banyana have consistently raised the South African flag high, their stipends do not come anywhere close to that of their male compatriots, who on the other hand have been the epitome of disappointments. After a draw, each Banyana player takes home R4000, while there’s an additional R1700 for a win. 

That is peanuts compared to a Bafana player who takes home R60 000 for a win and R30 000 for a draw. This difference in values has been caused by Banyana’s lack of financial backing as they are solely dependent on Sasol, while Bafana have Castle, OUTsurance and SA Airways in their midst. 

Ellis and her troops will be hoping that their continued dominance in global football will attract serious backers, and not chancers, such as insurance magnates MiWay - who were reportedly jumping on the bandwagon to celebrate Banyana’s good results with once-off pledges.

Deliver on the national women's soccer league PR 

The Sasol League has been a building block for Banyana’s success in the past, considering that the majority of the national team players are scouted from clubs playing in that league. However, like any other semi-professional league it has encountered challenges of its own such as failure to get additional sponsors and seasonal broadcasting rights. 

Enter the Women’s Soccer League. Late last year, Safa promised to launch a women’s professional league that would be organised similar to the men’s professional league (PSL). This league that’s scheduled to commence in April will consist of a 12-team plan that will see the nine provincial champions from the Sasol League, and University of Johannesburg, Mamelodi Sundowns and Bloemfontein Celtic ladies’ teams participating in it.

@Minenhlecr7


IOL Sport

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