After winning the Women’s African Cup of Nations on 23 July 2022 with a 2-1 victory over Morrocco, the Banyana team secured a spot in the 2023 Women’s World Cup in New Zealand, which kicked off on 20 July 2023.
The road to the World Cup for Banyana Banyana was not easy as a lot of politics and other issues over salaries and equality between men and women in football came into play. The Banyana team refused to play their send-off game which was set to be played against Botswana at the Tsakane stadium on 2 July 2023.
The players raised concerns and made a demand for a better venue to play their send-off game like one of the stadiums that were hosting the 2010 world cup and better opponents rather than Botswana. The failure of the South African Football Association (SAFA) to meet contractual and financial agreement, was another issue that was raised, considering that SAFA does much more for Bafana Bafana who don’t achieve nearly as much as Banyana.
SAFA president Danny Jordaan revealed that each player would receive R565 000 from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) for their participation in the global showpiece and that SAFA would receive R30 million to cover travel and logistics of the team throughout the tournament. Jordaan then claimed that SAFA as an organisation did not have the funds to pay the players any more money than what was offered by FIFA, which was totally outrageous knowing the amounts of money SAFA usually gives to the men’s team for playing friendly or just qualifying matches.
The Motsepe Foundation stepped up to remedy the situation through founder and CEO, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, by donating R6 million to be shared amongst the players as a bonus. The CEO expressed as per SAFA.net that Banyana were champions and needed to be treated as such, saying the days where gender equality should just be happening are now. After these developments Banyana were ready and willing to head to the Women’s World Cup.
Banyana Banyana’s group was a tough one to be in as they were drawn against Sweden, Italy, and Argentina, all ranked higher in the world standings compared to the South Africa, making them the underdogs. After suffering a 2-1 loss to Sweden and a 2-2 draw with South American team Argentina as well as losing captain Refiloe Jane to injury very early in the match, all hope seemed to be lost for the team.
But, in the dying minutes of their match against Italy on 2 August, a must win game, to qualify for the last 16, Thembi Kgatlana, wearing the captain’s armband, scored the winning goal for Banyana Banaya making the overall score 3-2. The win put Banyana through to the round of last 16 in the tournament to face the Netherlands on 6 August 2023.
Although Banyana suffered a two-nil loss in the match against the Netherlands, that did not prevent the team from reaching some important milestones as the women’s national football team, Banyana became the first football team – female or male – to reach that stage of the FIFA World Cup. The teams that managed to qualify for the next round included South Africa, Nigeria, and Morocco making it the first time in history that three African teams would reach this stand in the women’s world cup. Banyana went into the tournament ranked 54th by FIFA but moved up the rankings after their performances and are now ranked 48th.
Kgatlana became the first South African player to score three goals in a world cup tournament, to add, the 23-player squad are guaranteed R1.1 million each from FIFA for qualifying for the second round of the world cup, significantly bridging the inequality gap in wages between men and women in sports.
There is still a lot to be done in the fight for equality for women in sports and the developments that occurred during Banyana Banyana’s world cup campaign proved to be a step in the right direction.
This article is an opinion piece submitted on 10 August 2023. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of Karibu! Online or Khanya College. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.