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What happens to Banyana when the excitement dies down?

Only 8 players out of the 23 are fully professional and earning a living from football alone, and even for them, there aren’t any lavish sign-on bonuses. The rest will contend work and studies while playing
Thu, Jul 28, 2022

Sorry, I didn’t want to be that guy and spoil the party. But the reality that faces Banyana Banyana players, our beloved African champions, starting this weekend needs attention.

While there was euphoria (it was fitting, except for the long speeches) at OR Tambo International on Tuesday afternoon from the scores of supporters, media and dignitaries who gathered to give the South African women’s national team a rousing welcome for their incredible achievement at the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco, life will soon return to normal.

No, don’t look at me as a keyboard warrior hellbent on ending the celebrations when they’ve only just begun. Rather conclude that by reminding all and sundry that as from Saturday, the Hollywoodbets Super League, which has been in recess since the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) will resume and yet again highlight how rough some Banyana players have it.

The team that did us proud in Rabat to clinch their first-ever continental title after five previous attempts, boasts eight players who are categorised as fully professional and earning a living from football alone.

But the rest, out of a squad of 23, go back to their clubs, where the security afforded by being in camp with the national side varies for every player depending on the set-up of their affiliated local teams.

You don’t need to hear it from me that women’s football in SA isn’t the glitz and glam of the Wafcon, although what Banyana have achieved will go a long way in getting those with deep pockets and influence to change the status quo, or at least start talking about ways in which to address the serious issues.

Caf president Patrice Motsepe argued that the quality infrastructures in host cities Rabat and Casablanca, particularly what the Morocco FA is doing within women’s football, was an inspiration to the rest of Africa.

I have no doubt that in time we will all sing from the same hymn sheet – Safa’s vision around the ladies’ game is the only positive thing to come out of their Nasrec headquarters these days.

But some Banyana players will return to again trying to find the balance between work, school and being footballers – honestly, it was better for many while in camp knowing they were guaranteed their daily allowances and each game they won brought them a step closer to the R9.2-million promised by the association if they won the tournament, which they did almost with ease in the 2-1 win over Morocco.

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa added another R5.8-million this week as the government’s incentive for a job well done, and these players, especially those playing in the local league, can’t afford to blow it.

One of the two senior members in the squad couldn’t have said it better. “I have already told them [her teammates] that they need to invest the money and not buy fancy things like clothes and expensive cars. They must look at getting things like properties because life is not about now but about what you want in the future,” Janine Van Wyk was quoted as saying.

I’d be short-changing you of the point I am driving home here if I didn’t make comparison with Banyana’s male counterparts, who can bag a signing-on fee in the same region as their bonuses from the Wafcon winnings and splash it on a luxury car without batting an eye because they will earn a large portion of it back at the end of the month.

The next likely big cash injection for these women will probably be in the build-up to the FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.

With the exception of the eight that play abroad, these figures are rare given that the Super League only distributes a monthly grant of R150,000, but often clubs rely on this to settle debts incurred for both logistics, travel and even paying players.

This contribution, on the odd occasion that it is paid on time, barely scratches the surface for teams with no other resources unlike their rivals who are backed by tertiary institutions and have a little bit more in their coffers.

Even they aren’t filthy rich, they just compensate where they lack by counting on the universities that support them. Not yet uhuru.

Chairman of Ma-Indies Ladies, Philemon Mdaka, is on the record saying he pays some of the players in his team as little as R1,000 a month and buys them sanitary pads just to get them to honour games during the season. Reality check.

Safa president Danny Jordaan has already started the conversation around equal pay and his national executive committee have got their work cut out to make sure that mandate is signed off before the World Cup.

However, it’s going to take some doing for local clubs to catch up… and in the meantime, it is back to the grind for our Wafcon stars. We will celebrate, and rightfully so, but when the noise dies down and everyone moves on to the next thing, what about Banyana?