Banyana Banyana is widely regarded as South Africa’s best performing national football team and after their fourth consecutive COSAFA Women’s Championship victory, there are renewed calls for the South African Football Association to provide players with professional contracts.
There is a sharp rise in South African women footballers earning professional contracts with international clubs, and the pressure is now on to professionalize the game here in Mzansi.
A few months back, in the middle of a tough time for cricket governance in the country, financial services provider, Momentum, exited men’s cricket and opted to retain their naming rights to the Proteas Women’s team.
Momentum’s backing of the national women’s cricket team has ensured that the team is fully contracted and that Cricket South Africa is empowered to grow women’s cricket. Many are expecting SAFA to replicate this movement to ensure that women’s football grows in the country.
“These women excel, make sure they work on their craft day in and out without endorsements, personal trainers and sponsorships.” – former Banyana Banyana captain and current U17 Girls National Team coach, Simphiwe Dludlu
“These women excel, make sure they work on their craft day in and out without endorsements, personal trainers and sponsorships,” revealed former Banyana Banyana captain and current U17 Girls National Team coach, Simphiwe Dludlu.
“Lack of resources and access to those resources makes it even more difficult to stay on top.”
Dludlu went on to further emphasize on the topic of equal pay as she believes female footballers are deserving of an equal playing field.
“Equal pay is a very important decision that must be supported. Women are also the heads of households. They have bills to pay!
“Most of them can’t even afford a simple bond for a house, medical care, insurance to say the least.
“Putting food on the table regularly is an extreme sport yet they sacrifice the same amount of sweat, if not more, than their male counterparts.”
Through media support and coverage on women’s football, Dludlu is adamant that it will encourage the federation to attract sponsors to assist in professionalizing the game.
“The media has to keep telling these stories and create awareness through campaigns.” – Dludlu speaks on the coverage of women’s football.
“The media has to keep telling these stories and create awareness through campaigns.
“The more we have these conversations, the more solutions come up.
“Media can make people accountable and responsible for their own actions,” Dludlu continued.
“It is about principles! Equality must mean you treat women in sport the same way to you treat men. Same hotel, support, marketing, profiling, exposure, etc.
“Respect the women’s game as well. Media is the one avenue that can show us these stories regularly, good or bad.”
“We put in the work on and off the field to perform at our best, some athletes even work a part-time job on top of being an international athlete, just to make a living.” – Banyana Banyana international footballer, Leandra Smeda
Two Banyana Banyana players, Leandra Smeda and Refiloe Jane, who are both applying their trade abroad weighed in on the topic of equal pay.
“I think all female players deserve equal pay,” said Smeda.
“We put in the work on and off the field to perform at our best, some athletes even work a part-time job on top of being an international athlete, just to make a living.”
Smeda went on to say they are not expecting massive salaries but just a reduction in the pay gap.
“The pay gap is way too big and it needs to get smaller so that as a female athlete, you can actually live off your (playing) salary and not still have to work another job.”
“It doesn’t make sense to do the same job but be paid differently because of your gender.” – Banyana Banyana international football, Refiloe Jane
According to AC Milan star, Jane, equal pay is something that needs to be contextualized for the purpose of correct interpretation and analysis.
“It doesn’t make sense to do the same job but be paid differently because of your gender. This stems from social norms or stereotypes, and has infiltrated the sports industry,” she said.
“The worst is when unequal pay is justified.”
Just recently, Banyana Banyana received R500 000 from the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, for their phenomenal performance at this year’s COSAFA Women’s Cup.
Minister Nathi Mthethwa applauded the senior national women’s football team and reassured them that they are seen, recognized, celebrated and honoured. But, Mthethwa was also critical of the lack of corporate sponsorship for the team as well as women’s sport in South Africa.
“While Banyana Banyana is the best performing football team in South Africa, it is not the best paid.” – Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr Nathi Mthethwa
“While Banyana Banyana is the best performing football team in South Africa, it is not the best paid,” he said.
“While we salute Sasol SA for supporting women’s football, we urge corporates to provide further sponsorship for Banyana Banyana and women’s sport. We must fight for this cause.”
Smeda and Jane are two of several Banyana Banyana players who are fortunate enough to play in professional leagues abroad.
“It is such a blessing to be living this reality that I wish for more South African female football players,” admitted Jane.
“I have a responsibility to keep working hard as my work ethic may create opportunities for other South African players.”
Smeda agreed with Jane’s sentiments, adding: “Being able to play football full-time and getting paid for it means a lot to me because I played football for many years without earning a salary.”
South Africa is steadily moving in the direction of professionalizing women’s sport, and if Banyana Banyana are able to breakthrough soon and lead the latest wave, we could see many sporting codes under even more pressure to go pro.