Banyana and Bafana receiving same kind of benefits, Safa vice-president Linda Zwane insists

11 August 2023 - 12:00
Lebogang Ramalepe during Banyana Banyana's arrival press conference at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on August 11 2023.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix Lebogang Ramalepe during Banyana Banyana's arrival press conference at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on August 11 2023.

The South African Football Association (Safa) was saying all the right things at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg when welcoming members of Banyana Banyana from their history-making Fifa World Cup appearance in Australia and New Zealand.

Heavily criticised for the pre-tournament debacle that saw the country’s senior national women’s team boycott a friendly clash against Botswana as they fought to have their bonuses confirmed, the football governing body claimed on Thursday it had long been treating Banyana similar to their male counterparts.

“We had long resolved the issue of disparity,” Safa vice-president Linda Zwane said at the airport. “Banyana and Bafana are receiving the same kind of benefits. We have long addressed that issue.”

Strange then that we had the ugly scenes that played out before Banyana’s departure for the World Cup, where they achieved a South African senior football first by reaching the knockout stage.

Zwane described what happened as “a lesson”.

“We appreciate everything we went through prior to the World Cup and what we learnt. It’s a lesson, and what we are putting in is measures to avoid what happened. It is not only on Banyana, but all our national teams so these matters don’t derail the country and the association from the key issues of going to perform at tournaments while we are busy squabbling about issues of payments and all of that.”

Banyana’s qualification for the knockout stages, where they were bundled out by the Netherlands in the Round of 16, has amplified calls for the women’s league to be professionalised, and Zwane agreed it has to be done

“What matters is that we need to make sure there is professionalisation of the league. We need to make sure women’s football is taken to a different level. We are saying it is no longer about negotiations. It is a vision and at the centre of our vision is making sure women’s football thrives in this country.”

He described the association as being chuffed with what Banyana produced at the global showpiece.

“We are delighted about the performance there at the World Cup. We have been receiving our players since Tuesday and it is a must [that we are here at the airport to welcome them]. These are our heroes and it happens in the right month, Women’s Month. We must make sure women’s football is taken to great heights.”

Zwane’s promises were made in front of sports, arts and recreation minister Zizi Kodwa, who reiterated the pre-World Cup contractual squabbles between Banyana and Safa were “regrettable” and said he hoped “lessons were learnt”.

“We are here to welcome our joy and pride,” he said, making reference to the Spar Proteas’ showing at the Netball World Cup as well as that of the women’s T20 cricket national team in their own World Cup recently.

“All these teams are the roses that grew from the concrete. In spite of the challenges and difficulties, they rose to the challenge and that inspires us to do more in terms of investing in women’s sport.

“It is regrettable though that we are talking more about women’s sport when they have performed and I think some of these discussions, we should not be talking about them in 2023. Not so long ago we were talking about equal work, equal pay. Why should we have those discussions? (In) some of those discussions we should reflect ourselves as the authority of football in the country and make sure we don’t see a repeat.

“I think there’s a lot of investment [to be made]. Since the Cape Town Netball World Cup, we have been speaking to a lot of corporate citizens and initiated a discussion about professional leagues both in netball and Banyana and I think a lot must be done to ensure we invest in women in sport.”