July 02, (THEWILL) – South Africa’s women’s national football team, Banyana Banyana, found themselves embroiled in controversy on Sunday, as they decided to boycott a warm-up match against Botswana, ahead of the Women’s World Cup.
The team cited concerns about the unsuitability of the match venue in the Tsakane township, where they feared the clay and grass surface could lead to injuries and jeopardise their World Cup participation. Instead, they had hoped to play their final preparatory game at a more prestigious venue like Soccer City in Johannesburg or Orlando Stadium in Soweto. The last-minute decision, led to football officials calling up inexperienced players, including a 13-year-old, and the match resulted in a surprising 5-0 victory for Botswana.
Apart from the venue and opposition dispute, the South African women’s team also expressed unhappiness with the financial arrangements surrounding the upcoming World Cup. While FIFA offered each player $30,000 for participating in the tournament, the players claimed that the South African Football Association (SAFA) had not committed to providing any additional financial support. Consequently, the Banyana players refused to sign pre-tournament contracts, demanding an extra $21,000 per player from the national association.
In response, SAFA’s chief financial officer, Gronie Hluyo, deemed the players’ demands as unreasonable, pointing out that what FIFA offered was already significantly more than previous commitments to other national teams, including the men’s senior national team, Bafana Bafana.
The recent venue and financial dramas have added further challenges to Banyana Banyana’s preparations for the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. With their departure imminent, the team is scheduled to face Costa Rica in a final warm-up before taking on Sweden in their opening match in Wellington on July 23.