Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Banyana: No choice but to build again

 

 

It’s been a difficult year of results for Banyana Banyana, but Tuesday’s is the first to feel truly gut-wrenching.

As much as the World Cup may have been a harsh reminder of where the team sits in the context of world football, their mere participation was symbolic of a sharp upward trajectory.

It’s hard to find any such consolation this week. Elimination from the 2020 Olympic qualifiers at the hands of Botswana reverses two successive years of participation at the world games. Losing to a sparsely populated country on our border also contravenes the Southern African hegemony that’s been established with three successive Cosafa Cup triumphs.

“It’s really a disaster at the moment,” a dejected Desiree Ellis said after the game. “Not a good day. And we’re all really disappointed … not just for ourselves but everybody that came out. We just have to pick ourselves up.”

Over the past week, the coach has made no attempt to make excuses for Banyana’s failure to find the net over two legs. At the team’s hotel in Milpark on Monday she had bemoaned Botswana’s desire to do little but build two walls in front of her team — a tactic exacerbated by a shoddy pitch that required at least two or three touches to bring the ball under control.

But that was the first game. The lush ground at Orlando Stadium was expected to provide the habitat on which to impose the passing game Ellis loves to play. It delivered … the team did not. Despite chance after chance, they could not convert.

The resultant penalty shootout failure has left the future murky.

“Obviously we’ll sit down first and take a look at the way forward, that’s the most important thing,” Ellis said. “We have to lift the players; at the moment they’re all disappointed. They gave everything that they could out there.”

As disappointing as missing out on a trip to Tokyo is, the loss potentially has more disturbing, long-term consequences.

Olympic qualifying was set to continue for another three rounds — all two-legged affairs. That’s six potential competitive games we’ve missed out on. In these vital stages of growth for the women’s game that is six too many, especially considering we probably won’t see a non-friendly game before early next year at the soonest.

In our current reality it means a lot more than it would on the men’s side. Whereas they would return to ultra-competitive, high-paying club football, many Banyana players have few options outside of the national team.

“I think it’s a bit tough for the team to be inactive for such a long period,” midfielder Leandra Smeda said this week. “As we all know, some players in Banyana don’t have full-time jobs and some of the girls rely on the money they get when they come up for the national team.

“Also, in terms of the development of women’s football, for the national team to go on such a long break it will cost us in our Fifa rankings. A drop in the rankings will also affect the players that want to play abroad, that want to play in better leagues. In terms of exposure: with the team being inactive for so long it will be a blow, especially getting younger talent out there.”

Smeda is one of those who had earned a move overseas — to Vittsjö in Sweden — on the back of impressive outings with South Africa. Without a global stage to showcase their ability, others may struggle to follow suit.

“We need to stay focused, work hard and then hopefully in January we will have games,” she said. “But we will see what happens because at the moment we don’t know what lies ahead for the women’s national team.”

A slice of good news did arrive for aspiring female players towards the end of last month when the Safa Women’s National League finally kicked off. It’s an amateur league, for now, but at least it is a step in the right direction.

Now, more than ever, we want our players to be testing each other on a week-by-week basis. Our worst fear should be losing the substantial progress — and make no mistake, it is substantial — that has been made.

We can only hope Safa has this in mind and is doing all it can to grow the competitive scene.

Ellis, frustrated at her team’s inability to score a goal over 210 minutes, will no doubt be keeping a watchful eye. “Everybody has to play their part,” she said of the necessity to improve the conversion rate.

“The coaches out there have to also help us. Sometimes in the Sasol league it becomes so easy to score, nobody challenges you and you’re not put under pressure. When you come here and get put under pressure, things don’t happen as automatically as they would in the league.

“We just have to continue working on our finishing, that’s all we can do. It’s not just a problem for Banyana … in the PSL you have the leading scorer being at 12 goals so it’s a problem that we really have to start fixing now.”

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Luke Feltham
Luke Feltham is a features writer at the Mail & Guardian

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Constitutional court confirms warrantless searches in cordoned off areas unconstitutional

The law was challenged in response to raids in inner Johannesburg seemingly targeting illegal immigrants and the highest court has pronounced itself 10 days before an election in which then mayor Herman Mashaba has campaigned on an anti-foreigner ticket

A blunt Mantashe makes no promises during election campaigning

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe told people in Daveyton to stop expecting handouts from the government

Mbeki: Social compact the answer to promises made in ANC...

Former president Thabo Mbeki urged business and government and society to work together to tackle issues such as poverty, unemployment and poor services and infrastructure

South Africa needs to make pension system more inclusive, study...

South Africa’s pension system is ranked 31st out of 43 countries, receiving a C-grade which indicates major risks and shortcomings that should be addressed
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×