Building women’s soccer one Banyana at a time
Banyana Banyana coach Vera Pauw believes the establishment of a domestic women’s premier league will elevate the game to the same level as its male counterpart.
This, she says, is one of the key observations she has made in the five months she’s been in the job.
“A premier league in South Africa is a real necessity. There are already good structures in place for the national team, which would not have existed without our sponsor Sasol,” Pauw told City Press during Banyana’s preparation for today’s friendly against Zambia in Lusaka.
The former Netherlands women’s national team captain said Banyana were shaping up well for the African Women’s Championships (AWC) in Namibia from October 11 to 25.
“We are not ready yet, but we are on track. Firstly, we need to keep the players fit and work on the playing strategy to get better. In a way, we are trying to squeeze a whole learning process of three years into seven months.”
Today marks exactly 52 days before Banyana’s opening game against Cameroon at the Namibia tournament, where the three nations that finish at the top will qualify for next year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Pauw said the SA Football Association (Safa) was still in the process of finalising a west African opponent to build the team up for the African championships.
South Africa’s group includes Ghana and Algeria.
“I am happy we will play Côte d’Ivoire [next month]. We hope to get one or two west African opponents and, if not, we’ll be ready anyway – we play Zambia [today] and Tanzania [on August 31].”
As Pauw (51) moulds Banyana, one of her employment conditions from Safa is to develop local women coaches.
“The demands to get the team ready for the AWC are much higher than I expected and I haven’t had enough time for the other coaches outside the squad.
“We are trying to find a solution with [acting] technical director Fran Hilton-Smith because it doesn’t make sense to put emphasis on the talk and not have enough attention on the broader picture.”
In a recent interview with City Press, Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble said: “We need to fast-track the development of women coaches and put them through coaching courses. We are now identifying former Banyana players to become coaches.
The coach already has five former Banyana players who assist in her camps.
He added that South Africa’s bid for the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup was based on building the capacity of the women’s game in the country and raising the standard for the next five years.
Pauw said she had settled well in the country and was receiving lessons from the players to converse in local languages.
“They try to teach me but I am struggling with the ‘Q’ [words]. Further than ‘sawubona, unjani’, I don’t get it. Luckily, everybody speaks English very well,” she said.
Pauw is married to Bert van Lingen, the assistant coach of the Serbian national men’s team.
LASTING IMPRESSIONS Banyana Banyana players Kgadi Mokoma (left) and Refiloe Jane are eager to impress coach Vera Pauw