South Africa Women’s National Team boycotted their friendly match against Botswana on 2 July due to a dispute over pay and other issues as the team prepares to travel for the Women’s World Cup.
In light of the players’ demonstration, head coach Desiree Ellis was forced to field a makeshift team of players from local clubs, with some recruits as young as 13-years-old. The match was meant to serve as preparation for the tournament – as well as a send-off for the team – as they prepare to play in their second Women’s World Cup.
Ellis didn’t comment on the Banyana Banyana World Cup squad’s absence from the pitch in a post-match interview but Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe, the president of the South African Football Players Union, said in a video posted to the union’s Twitter: “They are fighting for their rights. SAFA doesn’t want to include money in their contracts. We must fight for the rights of these players.”
The players have asked to be paid 1 Million South African Rand (roughly £42,000) each for their three group stage matches in New Zealand. In addition to payment disputes, they felt that the stadium hosting their pre-departure match – 5,000 capacity Tsakane Stadium – was not reflective of the team’s success or appropriate for a send-off of this magnitude.
South Africa won the country’s first Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title last summer, automatically qualifying them for the Women’s World Cup commencing in two weeks. The growth that this team has experienced in the last five years is incredible, yet it has not been properly acknowledged by the South African FA.
This is not the first time Banyana Banyana has experienced this, nor is it the first time a women’s national team has had to fight and protest in order to have their needs met – the Reggae Girlz just published an open letter detailing the lack of support and resources they’ve received from the Jamaica Football Federation in the lead up to the tournament’s kick-off.
Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa is set to meet with the South African Football Players Union on 4 July, as the team is scheduled to travel to New Zealand in two groups later this week.