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WOMEN’S SPORT DEVELOPMENT

World Cup heroes cry out for a better deal for SA sportswomen

World Cup heroes cry out for a better deal for SA sportswomen
The Proteas celebrate after drawing with New Zealand in the Netball World Cup. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

South Africa’s hosting of the Netball World Cup and Banyana’s showing in the football should spur faster women’s sports development.

After South Africa’s successes at the recent Netball World Cup and the ongoing women’s foorball World Cup, the next step should be sustained development of women’s sport in the country.

Banyana Banyana were felled 2-0 by Netherlands on 6 August in Sydney, Australia, exiting the Fifa Women’s World Cup at the round of 16 stage – their best showing at the tournament to date.

Closer to home, the Proteas were edged 49-47 by Uganda later that day to finish the Netball World Cup in sixth place.

Though the defeats were disappointing, they highlighted important issues: South Africans care about women’s sport and more needs to be done to ensure the country can compete with the best in the world.

“This World Cup will do so much,” Proteas skipper Bongiwe Msomi told reporters.

Proteas Khanyisa Chawane and Bongiwe Msomi show the netball love. (Photo: Grant Pitcher / Gallo Images)

“I’ve seen a couple of faces out there and seeing young kids come through and actually looking forward to taking up the sport. That’s just fantastic.

“What we do here, it’s not only for us but what it is going to do long term for those who are looking up to us.

“This Netball World Cup is not [only] for kids to be looking up to us but [also] to [become] their own role models and for them to strive to take our sport really seriously and take it as a career one day.

“I wouldn’t ask for anything better for them than having South Africa host the Netball World Cup.”

A Soccer World Cup bid

South Africa hosted a largely successful Netball World Cup – the first time the event was held in Africa – and the country is now likely to bid to host the Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2027.

Star striker and stand-in Banyana Banyana captain Thembi Kgatlana believes her side’s performance in Australia will help to set a foundation for the country’s bid.

“… Our performance will work towards showing the continent and the rest of the world that we have made huge strides,” Kgatlana said.

Banyana Banyana’s achievements came in spite of inadequate infrastructure for women’s soccer at home.

Despite the national team being African continental champions and qualifying for a second successive World Cup, there is still no professional women’s soccer league in the country.

“Banyana Banyana have made history. We’re proud of them,” said Minister of Sport Zizi Kodwa. “We’re quite excited … I think the call we must make now, ‘What next?’ Obviously we need a professional league to make sure we invest more in women’s sport.

“It must not just be a talk show we’ll be discussing with the football authorities…

“I had a few conversations with some of the leadership. There are certain things we need to do to make sure we build women’s sports, not only women’s football.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to build a netball arena. The Netball World Cup was hosted in a makeshift arena at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“We need to ensure that netball grows in South Africa, and to enable it to grow we must build netball facilities throughout the country,” the president said at the closing ceremony on Sunday.

“Liz Nicholl [World Netball president]was whispering to me, saying the best thing to help SA netball so they can also become winners of the World Cup is to build an arena.

“I’m happy to say at the closing ceremony, in Women’s Month, that the gift we are going to give to the women of South Africa is to build a netball arena. We are going to do it.

“Let’s enjoy a moment of great celebration for netball. It will grow in South Africa and we’ll get many other nations to participate.”

Big things coming

The promises made to both netball and soccer in the country come off the back of a sticky situation prior to Banyana Banyana jetting off to New Zealand and Australia.

The team refused to play their final warm-up match against Botswana, which doubled up as a farewell match for the World Cup, for several reasons, not least the refusal by the South African Football Association (Safa) to meet payment requests.

Kodwa has vowed to address a “lack of leadership” in federations such as Safa.

“The incident that happened on the eve of the departure of Banyana Banyana is a lack of function of leadership because such issues must be anticipated.”

Plans for the women’s soccer league were in place, with crucial meetings expected in the coming weeks. “I met the national broadcaster, I’ll be meeting SuperSport, to make sure those discussions are taken further.”

Kodwa said South Africa was well positioned to make a successful bid for the 2027 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

“I’m very upbeat about winning [the 2027 bid],” he said. “It will help us in South Africa, but there’s a lot we must do … in terms of development of women’s sports.”

Kodwa said a lot of quiet diplomacy must take place with federations on different continents. “I think Safa, working with the Confederation of African Football … they’re all in favour of 2027 coming to South Africa.” DM

This article first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick newspaper DM168, which is available countrywide for R29.

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