Banyana Banyana have found themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea in the Olympics campaign. It’s another reminder of the urgent need for a professionally run women’s soccer league in South Africa. By ANT SIMS.
Banyana Banyana haven’t just been thrown into the deep end for their Olympic campaign in London, they’ve had concrete blocks tied to their legs before being thrown into the deep end. Their woes continued on Saturday as they lost 3-0 to Canada in their second Olympic Group F match. South Africa's defence was shaky from the get-go, allowing Canada to claim the lead after just seven minutes, after keeper Thokozile Mndaweni was forced into a number of early saves.
Banyana put on a valiant effort and looked much better on the offensive, but their shots on goal were easily stopped by Canada. The second half saw Banyana looking fired up, but it wasn't enough to keep Canada at bay, and Christine Sinclair fired home off a rebound to net Canada's second goal. Sinclair scored again in the 86th minute to put the final nail in Banayna's coffin.
South Africa have one final match left in their group - against Japan, the current world champions; and a match from which they are unlikely to draw a positive result. However, if their campaign has taught the powers that be anything, it should be that there is a serious need for professionally run women’s league in South Africa.
Soccer has been the lifeblood of South Africans for a long time. It’s a sport everybody from all walks of life can identify with, and there’s certainly no shortage of skill amongst the women who play the sport in South Africa. Nompumelelo Nyandeni plies her trade in Russia, while a few youngsters have had trials and many often leave before even considering a club in South Africa. If money is a motivator for children who take up the sport, there’s no shortage of it on foreign shores, especially in countries where women footballers can turn professional. But instead of exporting skilled individuals, there is a dire need to keep players in South Africa to help grow the game and the team.
The disparity in the quality of football played by those who have women’s leagues set up and those who don’t is never quite as stark as it is on the stage of a global showpiece. The need for intervention has never been more evident.
While Banyana Banyana are likely to leave London disappointed and heartbroken, they can hardly be held accountable for the disastrous campaign. Sport and fairytale romances rarely mix, and those who thought the national women’s team would somehow pull off a miracle in the group of death were sadly mistaken. Banyana could, however, serve as the catalysts to help future stars cope with the tough task of facing some of the world’s best teams – but to that, there has to be a serious overhaul of how the sport is managed and promoted at grassroots level. DM
Photo: South Africa's Noko Matlou (L) fights for the ball with Canada's Lauren Sesselmann during their women's Group F football match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the City of Coventry Stadium July 28, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo