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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

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Vision 22 is a rich reward for SA women’s football

Wafcon winners Banyana Banyana present their trophy to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings.Photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency/ANA

Wafcon winners Banyana Banyana present their trophy to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings.Photo: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency/ANA

Published Jul 31, 2022


Cape Town - SOUTH Africa’s football planners who conceived Vision 2022 hit the jackpot when Banyana Banyana won the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Morocco.

In 2014, the SA Football Association (Safa) leadership mapped out a plan they dubbed Vision 2022. It involved the fundamental rebuilding of Safa’s structures at all levels to create conditions that would bring about the sustained international success of its national teams.

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Safa set its sights on a long-term development plan to achieve the goal of always being in the top three of the African rankings, and in the top 20 of the world rankings.

Back then, South African football had flopped on several occasions in the international arena, and basic structures were not in place for the domestic game to grow.

Some of the areas that demanded urgent attention were: no adequate governance structures in place; an unstable financial position; Banyana failing to qualify for any Fifa World Cup; junior national teams failing to qualify for major competitions; weak regional structures; and, no national women’s league.

Eight years later, Vision 2022 has hit the bullseye for several of these targets, but especially the target involving women’s football, which now enjoys pride of place in South African society.

Banyana have won the 2022 Wafcon and are ranked third in Africa. The team has qualified for Wafcon 11 times, finished runners-up five times and now won the 2022 continental showpiece.

Banyana qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and back-to-back Fifa World Cups, in 2019 and 2023.

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Women are far more prominent in leadership positions. Five women are serving on Safa’s national executive committee and two women are presidents in the regions. There are 52 women who serve as vice-presidents at a regional level.

Over the past few years, women have replaced men who were head coaches of national women’s teams. Today, all women’s teams have women coaches, and Banyana’s head coach, Desiree Ellis, is considered the best women’s coach in Africa.

One of the ideals of Vision 2022 was that South Africa must become a major player in African and global football, both on and off the pitch.

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Today, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is headed by South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe, the president and Fifa vice-president.

Safa president Danny Jordaan is the CAF advisor on competitions and marketing.

Several South Africans serve as CAF match commissioners around the continent. They include Jack Maluleke, Bennett Bailey, Emma Hendricks and Thabile Msomi. Hendricks serves on the country’s highest football decision-making body, the national executive committee (NEC).

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Kaizer Chiefs official Jessica Motaung and former Bafana Bafana captain Lucas Radebe both serve on CAF committees.

Victor Gomes, Zakhele Siwela and Akhona Makalima have all been called up for international appointments as referees, assistant referees and match officials.

Safa’s Potso Mohami is a popular choice as the CAF general co-ordinator at tournaments around the continent.

Thulani Ngwenya, Safa’s chief medical officer, has been appointed as the official doping officer for this year’s Fifa World Cup in Qatar. Ngwenya is a member of the SA Sports Medicine Association (Sasma) and a member of the CAF and Fifa Medical Association.

There have been noticeable improvements in many other areas. Many coaches have obtained CAF A and B licences and some have taken up appointments abroad. One such coach is ex-Banyana goalkeeper and analyst Shilene Booysen, who was appointed head coach of the South Sudan national women’s team.

In the past three years, Safa have established a national schools league to support the Kay Motsepe Schools Cup competition and the Pan African Schools Championship.

The Women’s Hollywoodbets League is up and running and its champion side, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, are also the African Club champions. At the end of last year, Sundowns won the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League following a 2-0 triumph over Ghanaian outfit Hasaacas Ladies in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

The women’s professional league means that players are earning enough to maintain themselves without a second job. It has also been a shop window for foreign clubs to contract South African players. Their numbers include Bambanani Mbane, Andisiwe Mgcoyi, Regina Mogolola, Linda Motlhalo, Amanda Mthandi, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Zanele Nhlapo, Kelso Peskin, Drishana Pillay, Monique Posthumus, Lebogang Ramalepe, Rachel Sebati, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Leandra Smeda, Heather Tanner, Nothando Vilakazi and Chanelle Wiltshire, to name a few.

Many of these national team players have thrived under Ellis, who has had her fair share of detractors. However, her legend will be indelibly engraved in the annals of African football folklore after being crowned Coach of the Year (women) for the third successive year.

After taking over the reins from Vera Pauw, the Dutch football coach, Ellis was appointed in an interim capacity in 2016. Two years on, she was appointed head coach of the South African national women’s team.

Since then, she has never looked back, and South African women’s football scaled new heights and became a force on the African continent. Banyana Banyana reached the Wafcon final for the first time in several years and were denied by Nigeria in the 2018 final after the Super Falcons won the penalty shoot-out.

After guiding Banyana to the 2018 final, Ellis won the Africa Coach of the Year (women) title for the first time. She made it back-to-back wins when she lifted the title again in 2019, after she guided Banyana to a first-ever Fifa World Cup berth.

Recently, Ellis again qualified Banyana for the World Cup after reaching the 2022 Wafcon semi-finals in Morocco. By this time, Banyana had racked up the tag of favourites after defeating perennial champions Nigeria in the opening group encounter.

The win marked Banyana’s second successive win over Nigeria’s Super Falcons in a year. Last September, the Ellis-led side stunned Nigeria to win the Aisha Buhari Cup final 4-2 in Lagos. It was the first time in history that an African opponent had scored four goals against Nigeria’s national women’s team.

By this time, Ellis has become the heartbeat of South African women’s football. Full marks to Safa for showing the patience required for building winning teams. They supervised Ellis’s transition from assistant to head coach with great success.

There was more good news for Banyana, who will be given massive winning bonuses over the next few days after their African conquest.

On Friday, the University of South Africa (Unisa) granted the Wafcon champions bursary opportunities to pursue study programmes of their choice and continue to shape their futures to a better tomorrow.

In recognition of their historic achievement, Unisa will make available a special bursary programme for the 23 players in accordance with the university’s admission policies. The offer, the terms and conditions of which will be communicated to the potential recipients, is effective from January next year.

Unisa said in a statement: “The historic victory of South Africa in the African football scene after 26 years is very inspirational to Unisa, the youth, and South Africa as a whole.

“The achievement of Banyana resonates with Unisa’s values of innovation, excellence, and responsiveness. It is for this reason that Unisa saw it befitting to offer our exemplary champions the opportunity to further their studies and futures.”