Banyana put the boot into women’s football naysayers
Their confident swagger is fully deserved, because they've come a long way since the days of sexist ridicule
There was a time when women’s football was not taken seriously and was casually dismissed as nothing more than a passing fad that would die a slow death like the TDK compact cassette.
The court jesters had a grand old time deriding the women’s game and, truth be told, they had massive and willing audiences around the world in those days.
Women playing the sport were ridiculed and the cynics said they knew nothing about tactics, techniques and, more pertinently, they kicked the ball like, well, girls.
The contempt was real and I also remember the ridicule Banyana Banyana faced in the early days of the national women’s team.
Hell, I vividly remember the mockery and the derision the national women’s team faced after they played their first match about 25 years ago.
The jokes, many of them sexist and tasteless, came thick and fast, and predictably the amateur comedians wet themselves when that game produced a whopping 14 goals – Banyana beat neighbours Swaziland 14-0.
The cynics viewed the goals avalanche as some kind of warped vindication and justification of their belief that women’s football was a joke.
But times have changed, haven’t they?
While there are still some pockets of naysayers around the world who still believe women have no business playing football, the fact is that the game has managed to earn respect over the years.
Things have changed so much that Banyana, in particular, are actually more respected than their ailing men’s counterparts Bafana Bafana these days.
Their stock rose significantly after their performances at the African Women’s Championships, and even the cynics are seeing them in a very different light.
Coach Desiree Ellis, her technical team and her players worked their socks off to reach the final of the continental showpiece in Accra, Ghana, recently and they put up a brave fight before eventually going down to perennial nemesis Nigeria on Saturday night.
Nigeria needed a penalty shootout to finally find a way past the gutsy South Africans, and who knows which way the pendulum could have swung with a bit of luck?
While the defeat was heartbreaking, at least Banyana did not return from Accra empty handed on Sunday night.
The top three teams in Ghana automatically qualified for next year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup in France and Banyana managed to secure a maiden berth at the global tournament by finishing runners-up.
More pertinently, Banyana are a different side from the one that left this country last month, and they have earned respect all over the continent. They have a confident swagger about them that is hard to miss.
They will also be remunerated handsomely and, while their earnings are nowhere near the sums that are paid to serial heartbreakers Bafana, it’s a start.
The Confederation of African Football will pay out R555,000 to Banyana for finishing second behind winners Nigeria, who walk away with R1,1m.
The team’s sponsor Sasol has confirmed it will pay out R75,000 plus a R40,000 appearance fee to each player for finishing second.
Hopefully other members of corporate SA will also come to the party and invest in the women’s game.
To think a cheeky fan once likened women’s football to the WWE and suggested that it was about as real as that theatrical production that has given us characters like The Undertaker.