Sport

PITCH BATTLES

Safa shenanigans dull Banyana Banyana’s shine in World Cup build-up

Safa shenanigans dull Banyana Banyana’s shine in World Cup build-up
Safa president Danny Jordaan and player Thembi Kgatlana at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton before Banyana Banyana's departure to the World Cup on 5 July 2023. (Photo: © Sydney Mahlangu / BackpagePix)

Mere days before a second successive Fifa World Cup appearance, all eyes should be on Banyana Banyana. Instead the South African Football Association keeps stealing the team’s shine.

Just a handful of days remain until Banyana Banyana kick-off their second Fifa World Cup campaign. They do this with an extremely tough fixture against one of the leaders in women’s soccer – Sweden.

In the run-up to that Sunday-morning fixture, talk should be about the reigning African champions and their prospects at their sophomore global tournament.

It should rotate around the excitement of fans being granted the opportunity to see the exciting attacking duo of Jermaine Seoponsenwe and Thembi Kgatlana link up. The excitement of witnessing the silky skills of playmaker Linda Motlhalo. 

Discussions around which players will make the starting lineup should be dominating the discourse. With so much depth in the 23-player squad, Desiree Ellis will have a great headache when it comes to picking her preferred 11.

Safa Banyana

England’s Beth Mead (left) in action against Germany’s Felicitas Rauch during the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 final at Wembley in London on 31 July 2022. Nations such as Germany and England announced that their players will not receive any additional funds, other than the minimum of just more than R500,000 that Fifa has guaranteed for every player at the tournament. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Neil Hall)

However, these are not the discussions at the forefront of fans’ minds. Instead, eyes are firmly fixed on the weekly happenings at the South Africa Football Association (Safa) headquarters in Nasrec.

The mother body of South African soccer has had an eventful month or so. Putting out fires at every turn, including a standoff with Banyana Banyana players over remuneration at the tournament, among other grievances.

In that time, they also attacked the South African Football Players’ Union (Safpu), casting doubt on the credibility of the organisation. The union had stood with the players during their tussle with Safa.

Not long after, the association called an unorthodox press conference. Unorthodox in that the dialogue was one way, and gathered journalists could not ask questions.

There they announced that they were taking forensic investigator Bart Henderson to court over a report he had compiled and made public. The association labelled it a defamatory farce and devoid of truth. The document lays bare alleged misdemeanours at the organisation in recent years, with president Danny Jordaan the alleged protagonist.

Following a series of Daily Maverick articles touching on some of these allegations and abuses of power, Safa released a pair of statements dismissing the accusations and proclaiming Jordaan’s innocence – as has been the theme throughout his 10-year tenure as president.

Each action – including announcing a new Bafana Bafana sponsor at the height of their tiff with Banyana – has stolen the spotlight from the reigning African champions.

Hogging the spotlight

Just a day after Banyana Banyana won their final World Cup warm-up match – beating fellow World Cup participants Costa Rica 2-0 – it happened again. Safa took centre stage with a salvo aimed at Safpu.

At a press conference where the Motsepe Foundation announced that it was donating money towards Banyana Banyana’s pay for the World Cup (and saving Safa from further embarrassment), the players’ union said they had struck a deal with the national association in which the technical staff would benefit financially alongside the players.

At the press conference, which was also attended by Minister of Sport Zizi Kodwa, it was confirmed that the World Cup-bound 23 players will each receive their guaranteed Fifa money (just more than R500,000).

Safa Banyana

Athenea del Castillo of Spain (left) in action against Leah Williamson of England during their UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 quarterfinal in Brighton on 20 July 2022. The Lionesses of England have been locked in discussions with the English FA, in order to find common ground on additional remuneration. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Vince Mignott)

This would be accompanied by an additional R230,000 from Safa. The three standby players would also be paid this fee, it was said. Moreover, Safpu said that as part of the agreement the technical staff would be granted R115,000 for their efforts.

A fortnight after the press conference, Safa have released a statement distancing themselves from any agreement to pay support staff anything other than what is in their contracts.

The fact that Safa wants to deprive them of what is theirs is disgusting. Their bonuses were never in contention on their departure. So, to renege now stinks.

“We wish to state it clearly that Safa has never promised any staff R115,000 per official prior to Safpu’s unilateral announcement,” Safa said on Sunday, 16 July.

“We have said that any money that is raised will be distributed to the staff. So far only R6-million has been raised for the players, thanks to the Motsepe Foundation and iThuba National Lottery. We have committed to every single cent that was raised for the players, including the Fifa prize monies that were put on the table,” they continued.

“As far as the staff is concerned… We committed to their assignment contracts to pay their daily fees as per the contract signed and daily allowances, over and above the fees. Any bonuses that will be given to the staff will be based on the team’s progression at the Fifa Women’s World Cup because bonuses are performance incentives.”

Why they waited so long to flag this issue, when the press conference in which it was announced was on 5 July, only they know. They had ample opportunity to set the record straight then and there.

Safpu have lashed back at Safa, accusing the association of flip-flopping.

“This is disrespectful and demonstrates that the association thinks nothing of the management staff, medical team and coach compliment. [They think nothing] of the team behind the scenes, the expertise, the skill set, the time committed and the hours spent away from home [by these people],” said Safpu secretary-general Nhlanhla Shabalala.

“The fact that Safa wants to deprive them of what is theirs is disgusting. Their bonuses were never in contention on their departure. So, to renege now stinks. It reeks of ill-administration, lawlessness and irresponsible leadership with rotten culture,” Shabalala said.

Beth Mead England scores against goalkeeper Guro Pettersen of Norway during a Group A match at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 in Brighton on 11 July 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Vincent Mignott)

Of course, the people concerned are already in New Zealand and working hard to make sure the team is ready for their tough group assignments against Sweden, Italy and Argentina.

This latest public row involving Safa is unlikely to perturb and distract Banyana. However, it will be just another dark cloud hanging over the team – with some Safa executive members sharing their thoughts that the team will be enjoying a holiday at the World Cup. As opposed to being competitive.

Not the only ones

Nations such as Germany and England announced that their players will not receive any additional funds, other than the minimum of just more than R500,000 that Fifa has guaranteed for every player at the tournament. The same stance was taken by Safa before the intervention of the Motsepe Foundation.

While two-time world champions Germany took the announcement in their stride, the Lionesses of England (the reigning European champions) have been locked in discussions with the English FA, in order to find common ground on additional remuneration.

With the tournament about to begin, and no agreements in place, the English team released a statement on Tuesday, 18 July, saying they would pause the discussions with their association, to focus on the task at hand.

“We are disappointed that a resolution has still not been achieved. We view the successful conclusion of these discussions, through player input and a transparent long-term plan, as key for the growth of women’s football in England,” they said.

“With our opening game on the horizon, we Lionesses have decided to pause discussions, with full intentions of revisiting them following the tournament.”

By contrast, countries such as four-time World Cup winners the USA, as well as the Netherlands committed timeously to compensating their players adequately. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options