Chaos at Banyana World Cup send-off as players boycott warm-up game

02 July 2023 - 15:52 By Marc Strydom
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A makeshift Banyana Banyana team (foreground) leaves the field after their warm-up for a friendly against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium that was supposed to be the send-off game for the African champions at 2023 Women's World Cup. The first team boyocotted the game.
A makeshift Banyana Banyana team (foreground) leaves the field after their warm-up for a friendly against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium that was supposed to be the send-off game for the African champions at 2023 Women's World Cup. The first team boyocotted the game.
Image: Marc Strydom

There were chaotic scenes at Banyana Banyana’s send-off for their second Fifa World Cup as the team boycotted Sunday's warm-up game against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium in Ekhuruleni.

A makeshift South African team -seeming to consist of 13 players — were warming up to come out and play a game delayed from 3pm to 4pm, though reports were it was made up of no players from Banyana’s World Cup squad. A decent crowd turned out at the ground.

Coach Desiree Ellis's makeshift Banyana were reportedly made up not of players from clubs of the top-flight Hollywoodbets Super League, but the next tier Sasol Women's League.

This followed reports in the Sunday newspapers of a revolt in the women’s national team camp.

A report in Sunday Times, quoting sources, detailed a potential mutiny as players objected to the venue of Tsakane Stadium for Sunday’s send-off match against Botswana (3pm) as substandard.

The report said the players are also demanding R1m each for playing their three World Cup group G matches in Wellington, New Zealand against Sweden (July 23), Argentina (July 28) and Italy (August 2).

Safa officials at the ground would not comment on the situation, with further details only expected to emerge in the post-match press conference.

This represents the worst possible send-off the African champions could have had for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand from July to August 20.

It comes as a huge embarrassment to the South African Football Association (Safa).

Sports minister Zizi Kodwa expressed his concern over the situation in a statement on Sunday and said he would meet the South African Football Players Union to find out what the national team’s concerns were.

Sunday Times reported on a standoff between the Banyana players and Safa over whether the team would play the send-off match at Tsakane Stadium.

Banyana players did apparently not want to play the game at the stadium because they deemed the rustic venue in the township of Tsakane to be not worthy of a team about to play at the World Cup. They wanted a better venue such as FNB Stadium or Orlando Stadium.

Banyana, who meet Costa Rica in a final warm-up game in Christchurch on July 15, depart from South Africa in two groups on Wednesday and Thursday.

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