Sport

WOMEN’S FOOTBALL

Banyana Banyana players making overseas moves

Banyana Banyana players making overseas moves
Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk, centre, and head coach Desire Ellis (Photos: Quality Sport Images / Getty Images | Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

As more and more South African national women’s team footballers land professional contracts overseas, the growth of the game in the country will benefit.

An increasing number of Banyana Banyana players are securing places in international leagues. In the space of 10 days, five players have made moves, adding to the number of South African female footballers already plying their trade internationally.

The likes of Refiloe Jane, Linda Motlhalo, Bambanani Mbane and Ode Fulutudilu have already been flying the South African flag internationally.

This increase in South African players abroad can only impact positively on the growth of the national team. Especially as the structures for women’s football in South Africa are still at amateur level, even with the inception of the Safa National Women’s League (SNWL) in 2019.

“Sasol has been fantastic with the Sasol League. Then the national league came along, and we draw players from that. So, we cannot discount the efforts and input from Sasol. But on the other hand, you want players to train at a higher level every day, you want players to play at a high level every week,” Banyana coach Desiree Ellis told Daily Maverick.

“And when you play at that high level you get used to that high intensity. Our leagues are organised and that, but the intensity in some of the matches is very low. So, when you’re preparing for international football, the gap is so big. The intensity they are training and playing at now, the gap is much closer.”

These sentiments were echoed by Banyana captain and stalwart Janine van Wyk, who became the latest player to land herself an international contract with Scottish champions Glasgow City.

“It’s history to have so many South Africans playing abroad, and I know with the experience they’ll be gaining and playing in high competition week in and week out, training on a daily basis will definitely strengthen our national team. But it’ll also open up many doors for youngsters in our country,” Van Wyk, who has 170 international caps and captained Banyana at the 2019 World Cup, told Daily Maverick.

At the age of 33 and after recovering from a serious knee injury, a return abroad was not on the cards for the South African captain who also owns JVW, a team recently promoted to the SNWL from the Sasol League. She saw herself hanging up her boots locally. Instead, she has now secured a dream move to a top club.

Although strides have been made to improve the women’s game locally, the general hope is that more players will make the leap internationally, and with time occupy spaces in greats teams like Barcelona, Lyon and Chelsea to name a few.

“Due to the pandemic, it’s given me no choice but to look for playing football abroad. Because we’re not sure of the turn women’s football locally has taken due to the pandemic and when it will return. And I have to make use of the time that I have left in my career. So, I decided to look for clubs I could play for abroad – and luckily Glasgow City were also looking for an experienced defender,” said South Africa’s most capped player.

Van Wyk’s move has been described as the ‘biggest’ signing in Scottish women’s football history. Glasgow City club manager Laura Montgomery told the BBC:

“Her record is incredible on and off the pitch in what she has done for girls and women’s sport in her own country as well as in her promotion of equality.”

Other players to secure moves recently include Jermaine Seoposenwe, who joined Portuguese side Braga from Real Betis in Spain and Nothando Vilakazi who was snapped up by EDF Logroño in the Spanish Primera Division after some impressive defensive displays for Tshwane University of Technology in the SNWL.

Meanwhile, midfielder Kelso Peskin has joined French side Stade Brestois from Toulouse, and University of Johannesburg (UJ) forward Amanda Mthandi has penned a one-year deal with Spanish Second Division side Badajoz.

The 24-year-old Mthandi, who is a student at UJ, told the South African Football Association’s (Safa) website that she was elated and overwhelmed, adding that the move came as a surprise.

In spite of her impending switch, she has no plans to halt her studies.

“The good thing is that due to Covid-19 and the lockdown, we have been studying from home and writing exams online, so when I move to Spain, I will continue with what I have been doing, the way I have been doing it,” she said. “All I need to do is find the right balance like I have been doing here at home.”

Although strides have been made to improve the women’s game locally, the general hope is that more players will make the leap internationally, and with time occupy spaces in greats teams like Barcelona, Lyon and Chelsea to name a few.

“There are some playing countries that are not that well known for women’s football, as opposed to well-known countries such as Spain and Italy. You want your players to go to better leagues to improve even more. But it’s a start, it’s not where we want to be, but it’s a start. So, when you get these opportunities you’ve got to prove yourself and try to get signed by bigger and better clubs,” said Ellis. DM

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