NELSPRUIT - The opening Match match of the Sasol League National Championships yesterday at Kabokweni Stadium between Mamelodi Sundowns Women and Bloemfontein Celtic Women featured 15 players who have represented South Africa.
The reigning champions, Celtic, also had a Botswana international and Lesotho captain Boitumelo Rabale - who scored a brace in their 3-0 win over Sundowns, to extend the number of players who have played international football to 17.
It shows the pull these two clubs have as well as the structures that develop players who go on to play at the highest level.
Celtic and Sundowns are guaranteed places in the national women’s league that was supposed to have been launched next year, but has now been pushed back to 2019.
Safa argued the postponement was to accommodate the Sasol League as the new season will start in February, before the national league would have started, with talks to also include Sasol League winners along with nine teams from each province and the winners of the universities league.
“We are privileged to be working under the umbrella of Mamelodi Sundowns,” Banyana Ba Style coach Jerry Tshabalala said.
“It’s (a) pity that some teams aren’t that fortunate. If there were more teams associated with PSL clubs, the standard of women’s football in the country would improve, as it would be more competitive.
"You see how our match against Celtic panned out. Two coaches who are tactically smart. When you are under such a structure, you get to learn from the first team coaches because you need to play just like the first team.”
The resources at Sundowns’ disposal have helped the club win the Sasol League National Championships twice, in 2013 and 2015. The Tshwane side plays in a more competitive stream in Gauteng which features three-time champions Palace Super Falcons and last year’s finalists JVW FC.
Their resources and playing in a competitive league prepares them well for the championships that feature the nine provincial winners. Celtic have dominated the Free State because of their resources and the lack of competition that puts them miles ahead of the rest. Celtic have won their stream every year since the tournament’s inception in 2009.
“Normally we play against our (men's) MDC team,” Celtic Women's coach, Edwin "Motale" Lisene said.
“Last week we played against our MDC team and they beat us 9-0. We played against our ABC Motsepe League team (Celtic Colts) and they beat us 4-0.
"We played our SAB team and they beat us 4-2. We normally play against the boys before, to prepare. That’s why our players are tactically smarter than even the Sundowns’ players.”
Lisene’s passion for the women’s team has also contributed to their success. He was instrumental in its foundation in 1995 and re-establishment after it was disbanded three years after its formation. The ladies' team resurfaced as Mangaung Women before Celtic “reclaimed” them with Lisene involved all the way.
Banyana Banyana interim coach Desiree Ellis believes that if more PSL clubs had a women’s team and more clubs were well-structured like Sunflower FC, JVW and Falcons among others - Banyana would be more competitive.
“It would help a lot because you would know that the players are being well-looked after so that when a player comes to camp she knows what’s needed from her,” Ellis said.
“These clubs (Celtic and Sundowns) are well-structured, well-organised and well-managed.
"That helps us because once you have those three things in place, the team does well and that helps us a lot because we get good players in the national team which would take us to the next level.”
Njabulo Ngidi is in Nelspruit courtesy of Sasol