Much to learn from SA's success on the pitch

Try as they may, many African countries are struggling to catch up with South Africa in terms of the resources they have injected into developing women's football.

18 November 2020 | Sports



South Africa is hard at work growing the game of football, which many have come to love over the years.

This is quite evident from the players on display at the Cosafa Women's Championship, which SA won for a record seventh time after beating Botswana 2-1 in Port Elizabeth.

Besides excelling at Cosafa, the country's senior women's team have represented their country in multiple tournaments. These include the African Women's Cup of Nations and, more recently, a debut at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France.

Clear pathways

SA also ensures that the national teams compete at two other levels: under-17 and under-20, so that the senior team is fed with upcoming talent.

In addition, not only are they flourishing on the international scene but on the domestic front too, as they have ensured that the Sasol league and the Safa Women's National League flourish and feed the three women's national teams. This, according to IOL, makes it easy for scouts and the national coaches to assess players.

How women are faring

Namibian Sun spoke to FIFA Master graduate and head coach of Unam Bokkies Thuba Sibanda and a founding member of women's football in Namibia, Julien Garises, to shed light on what makes the women's game successful in SA and what Namibia needs to do to catch up.

Sibanda said SA has a clear player development pathway. “This is evident from the number of players who are playing abroad. They have invested well in development, national structures, technical components and have put in a lot of mileage into capacity building.

“They have also hosted a lot of events in the Cosafa Region and have organised more competitions and international friendlies for national teams. They have imported qualified technical people to help the teams as well.

“As an ambassador for Southern Africa when it comes to football, the results show that they have done the necessary work, even with infrastructure,” said Sibanda.

Garises has her say

Garises added that football in SA is using four pillars. One is that they honour the right to representation and thus have women with passion who are supported to serve on international committees.

“Others serve on technical committees and as match commissioners, which exposes them through networking.

“Regional structures provide support to women's football via regional leagues which are active throughout the year. National teams get support and thus play friendlies and also host regional tournaments, with Cosafa being a big advantage,” said Garises.

Sponsors play role

She added that all the national teams have sponsors and that the development of coaches, medics, administrators and referee is crucial. In addition, she said that if the Brave Gladiators get capacity building right, many doors will open for the players. “Hard work starts at the regional level but if administrators are not in place, we will remain behind as new players will not come through.

“The NFA Girls Centre caters for young girls who will support youth teams, but talent in regions for older girls can only be discovered through proper regional leagues and support from regional executives.

“Women football, although administered by the women's football executive, should receive support from regional and national executives.”

She added that currently, there is a very small pool to select from, which is why girls who need to establish themselves in youth structures are representing the senior side.

“Regional football must be structured to have first- and second-division action with equal support, not leaving behind the other disciplines of football both for women and men,” added Garises.

Life after football

Speaking about life off the pitch, according to IOL in South Africa the one area the women footballers have certainly upstaged their male counterparts in is life after football. Many former and current Banyana players have done well in terms of preparing for life after football.

Some have already completed degree and diploma courses at SA and American universities and several more are enrolled at tertiary institutions locally and abroad. Goalkeeper Kaylin Swart, who made her Banyana debut in 2016, has attained a bachelor's degree in business management and sports management in California. Another goalkeeper, Roxanne Barker, who has been capped 28 times for the national team, has a BSc degree in biology from the Pepperdine University, California.

Defender Koketso Tlailane continues to rack up qualifications at the Tshwane University of Technology. She has already attained a National Diploma in sports management, a BTech degree in sports management, a National Diploma in civil engineering and is currently studying for a BTech degree in civil engineering.

How local women are faring

Namibia is not far behind, with the likes of Annushka Kordom obtaining a bachelor of science degree from Corbon University in Oregon.

Lovisa Mulunga has a bachelor's degree in Business administration and is now working on a master's degree, while Vewe Kotjipati graduated in 2019 with a master's degree.

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