Yes, we’re a na­tion of hyp­ocrites, but let’s sup­port Banyana now

CityPress - - The 'sorry' State Of Women's Sports - Sm­se­[email protected]­ Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Sbu_Mse­leku

Bon­gani Bingwa of 702 and yours truly seemed to have wo­ken up on the same side of the bed on Thurs­day morn­ing.

At the start of my drive to work, Bingwa in­tro­duced a very im­por­tant sub­ject: the per­for­mance of Banyana Banyana – the South African se­nior women’s foot­ball team – at the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Na­tions.

He raised the ire of many when he men­tioned the dis­crep­an­cies be­tween the match fees of Banyana Banyana and their male coun­ter­parts, Bafana Bafana. He said that, ac­cord­ing to the pay­ment struc­ture he had heard about, some mem­bers of the men’s team re­ceived up to R75 000 per match de­pend­ing on their se­nior­ity (num­ber of caps), while Banyana play­ers got a mea­gre R5 000.

He then chal­lenged cor­po­rate South Africa to chip in and put its money where its mouth is by at least con­tribut­ing to­wards once-off bonuses for the team for qual­i­fy­ing for next year’s Women’s World Cup in France.

By the time I alighted at work, Rene Otto, MiWay’s CEO, had called in to pledge R100 000 to­wards the kitty, and she chal­lenged other com­pa­nies to match or beat MiWay’s con­tri­bu­tion.

Prior to lis­ten­ing to Bingwa’s break­fast show, I had been mulling over writ­ing an­other opin­ion piece on how shab­bily women’s foot­ball and sport gen­er­ally is treated in this coun­try.

Some peo­ple have just wo­ken up to this, now that Banyana have qual­i­fied for the World Cup.

I was irked on Wed­nes­day morn­ing when I went through the daily news­pa­pers. Only Sowe­tan car­ried a pic­ture of Banyana on its front page, plus a lead story on the back page. This af­ter Banyana’s 2-0 vic­tory over Mali that put them through to yes­ter­day’s against Nige­ria.

There was noth­ing in the other morn­ing news­pa­pers.

Be­fore I’m ac­cused of steal­ing Bingwa’s thun­der and be­ing a late­comer to the band­wagon, I penned an opin­ion piece in the Oc­to­ber 18 edi­tion of City Press head­lined: “Women’s foot­ball has made huge strides, but more still needs to be done.”

I wrote in part that “one just wishes that more com­pa­nies would see the value in spon­sor­ing women’s foot­ball. It is sad that, de­spite these suc­cesses, women foot­ballers still earn far less than their un­der­per­form­ing male coun­ter­parts at na­tional level.

“This is an anom­aly that needs to be cor­rected!”

The fe­roc­ity of this week’s out­cry fi­nal over Banyana Banyana play­ers’ re­mu­ner­a­tion struc­ture made me re­alise and ac­knowl­edge that we South Africans are a na­tion of hyp­ocrites.

If the out­cry and the ac­tiv­ity on all so­cial and other me­dia plat­forms were any­thing to go by, you could swear that, should a Banyana in­ter­na­tional match be staged at FNB Sta­dium, it would be filled it up.

How­ever, the re­al­ity is that they have played most of their matches at the much smaller Dob­sonville and Makhu­long sta­di­ums in front of pal­try crowds.

Here are a few ques­tions to which an­swers will prove my point:

● How many sports jour­nal­ists, par­tic­u­larly foot­ball writ­ers, have at­tended Banyana Banyana matches?

● Why is Sa­sol still the only com­pany sup­port­ing Banyana fi­nan­cially, de­spite the team do­ing so well over the years?

● How many peo­ple can tell you, off the top of their heads, which coun­tries Banyana Banyana beat to get to this tour­na­ment?

● Be­fore this tour­na­ment, or even be­fore the team started win­ning and even­tu­ally mak­ing it to yes­ter­day’s fi­nal, how many peo­ple could tell you, with­out think­ing, just three names of Banyana Banyana play­ers?

● As you are read­ing this col­umn, can you tell me how many Banyana play­ers ply their trade overseas and for which clubs?

So, be­fore we jump up and down like cats on a hot tin roof, we need to look at the four fin­gers point­ing back at us.

In the words of one John Fitzger­ald Kennedy, it’s time we asked not what our coun­try can do for us, but what we can do for our coun­try.

Let’s not sup­port Banyana with words only, let’s prove it with ac­tion by at­tend­ing their matches and mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions where we can.

Also, Banyana’s suc­cess didn’t hap­pen in a vac­uum, it was through plan­ning and in­vest­ment by Safa.

The na­tional foot­ball gov­ern­ing body has its faults, but let’s praise it when it does some­thing right, just as we harshly crit­i­cise it when it fails the na­tional sport.

Like many other for­mer Banyana play­ers, coach De­siree El­lis and her as­sis­tant coach, Thi­na­sonke Mbuli, have been em­pow­ered by Safa to ac­quire their coach­ing badges.

Also, some of Banyana’s stars came through the academy that was es­tab­lished at the High Per­for­mance Cen­tre in Pre­to­ria a few years ago as a feeder to ju­nior and youth na­tional teams.

The women play­ers who have signed con­tracts overseas were spot­ted by their clubs dur­ing in­ter­na­tional friendly matches or­gan­ised by the same Safa against pow­er­ful foot­ball-play­ing na­tions such as the US, Ger­many and Hol­land. ●

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