The South African Football Association (SAFA) is pulling out all the stops to establish a fully-fledged professional league for women in the country.
Calls to professionalise women’s football have increased following Banyana Banyana’s heroics in the recently concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Despite playing domestic football on a part-time basis, Banyana made history by becoming the first South African team to reach the last-16 of a FIFA World Cup tournament.
Even though the number of Banyana Banyana players who ply their trade in big football leagues overseas has increased in recent years, most of the players are still playing locally. Despite the bulk of the players playing part-time football, Banyana Banyana gave their highly ranked opponents in Group G of the Women’s World Cup, a good run for their money.
Most of the teams in the World Cup were surprised that South Africa does not have a fully-fledged professional league, after managing to qualify for two FIFA World Cups in a row and reaching the round of 16 earlier this month. All Banyana Banyana’s opponents in their group were ranked in the top 30 in the world.
“The professionalisation of women’s football is something that we are really committed to. We’ve been speaking about that even before Banyana went to Sydney and New Zealand. It’s quite key that we create an environment where our girls can focus solely on playing football instead of having jobs 9 to 5 elsewhere and then ending up from 5pm until 9pm they are training elsewhere,” says SAFA Chief Executive Lydia Monyepao.
The current Hollywood-Bets Super League was just a starting point but more needs to be done to close the big gap between the men and women’s game in the country.
“As far as professionalisation of women’s football is concerned we are really committed to that and we will continue pushing aggressively in terms of getting sponsors on board in turning the current Hollywoodbets Super League into a more professional league. As we know there are teams that pay their players some sort of money to participate in the league but the majority of the teams are not paying our players,” says Monyepao.
The betting company’s name is closely associated with women’s football in South Africa but from this season it will also sponsor the men’s regional league in the country. The fourth tier of South African football has been operating without a sponsor since 2019.
“The regional league is where you know the majority of our teams are playing. So, we need to support those regions that are doing a lot of football development for us but it goes without saying that we need funding for those kind of programmes that happen at regional level,” Monyepao added.
The recently concluded sponsorship took over a year to negotiate. The much-needed funding will go to the 52 SAFA regions, an area where money is needed most to develop football. Each region will be expected to have 18 teams every season.
“We see a lot more scouting opportunities for the youth in these leagues that would be able to be seen at the end of it to be able to play for Bafana one day and also just important as well we very entrenched in women’s development. I think it’s also important that we put input into the men’s development side as well. That’s why we have come to the decision to get involved with the men’s regional league,” says Indira Albuquerque, Hollywoodbets sponsorship coordinator.
Eventually the regional league should produce two teams per province to be elevated to the ABC Motsepe League, which is the third tier of South African football.
Original Story by www.sabcnews.com