Johannesburg - “Big step? I don’t know. But it’s the right direction because this is what we’ve been voicing out before: we need equality!”
Those were the words of Thembi Kgatlana who backed the latest strides by the South African Football Association (SAFA).
For some time, there’s been a huge gap between Banyana Banyana and Bafana Bafana. The latter has been getting more incentives, attention and sponsors, while their female patriots have been struggling with regards to backing.
But thanks to the sponsorship from petroleum giants Sasol from 2009, they were able to make ends meet. Sasol sponsored the national team and the semi-professional league. And that helped Banyana who’ve grown in leaps and bounds.
On Friday, though, Sasol extended their union for more years on Friday. And That was a welcomed feat by SAFA who showed their intentions of bringing equality to men's and women's football by moving the Banyana next match next week.
On Tuesday, Banyana will play their return leg in the first round of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations against neighbours Mozambique on the back of a 7-0 triumph in the away leg. That return leg was scheduled for the Dobsonville Stadium.
But SAFA has since decided to take the game to the FNB Stadium which has been used to host Bafana's home games. That feat excited Banyana stalwart Kgatlana who reckons they'll soon be drinking from the same cup as their male patriots.
“I know we can’t get the same money as boys but we are asking for equality,” said Kgatlana at Sasol place on Friday.
“If Bafana is based in Sandton, we are not saying that we also want to sleep in Sandton, but we can’t be placed in FunValley. If Bafana is playing at FNB, we can’t be playing at Dobsonville because at the World Cup, we play at better stadiums.”
She added: “It’s about equality, getting the teams to play at the same level. If we have to talk about money, that's a different story based on who wants to support men and women. We deserve to be treated equally, that makes a difference.”
With the team having shown tremendous improvement in the last few years, including qualifying for their first ever World Cup in 2019, Kgatlana admitted that there’s been a general euphoria as far as the national women’s team is concerned.
“Instead of complaining about money over the years, we know that things are getting better. We are getting our kit, sleeping in better hotels and we are getting the right treatment that we need. For me, it’s the right direction,” she explained.
Despite having one foot in the second round of the Awcon qualifiers, Banyana can't afford to be complacent against Mozambique at the Calabash. A clinical display, moreover, would send a strong statement to second round opponents, Algeria.