South Africa women's team row with officials ahead of 2023 World Cup

Published on: 04 July 2023
South Africa women's team row with officials ahead of 2023 World Cup
South Africa triumphed at 2022's Wafcon in Morocco after losing their four previous finals - in 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2018

South Africa have seen their preparations for this month's Women's World Cup thrown into disarray just 48 hours before departing for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand.

The squad selected by coach Desiree Ellis did not participate in Sunday's final warm-up fixture on home soil, meaning a back-up team, which included a 13-year-old girl, was hastily assembled to face Botswana in order to avoid a fine.

Reports have suggested Banyana Banyana's players refused to take part because of a row over bonuses but Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe, president of the South African Football Players Union (Safpu), has claimed they were actually prevented from taking part by Danny Jordaan, president of the South Africa Football Association (Safa).

According to Gaoshubelwe, the players were ready to board the bus at their hotel to travel to the game.

"Danny cannot have his cake and eat it," he said.

"(By saying) the women didn't want to go and play the game because at 12.30 they were ready to go."

Responding to the BBC Sport Africa, Jordaan described that claim as "rubbish".

"How is it possible for the coach and manager of the team to have gone to the stadium and for the players to have stayed behind? The players were never going to play the game."

The players, who did eventually arrive at half-time, were initially refused entry to the Tsakane stadium before negotiations between Safpu and Safa officials smoothed things over.

Ellis, who retained her position in charge on the touchline throughout the game, was noticeably quiet when issuing instructions to the new team comprising players from local leagues.

Botswana won the match 5-0.

'Areas of deep concern'

Gaoshubelwe's claim that the players did not boycott the match has been backed up by Panyaza Lesufi, premier of the Gauteng province, who chaired an emergency meeting at the stadium.

Appearing after the game, flanked by both South Africa captain Refiloe Jane and Jordaan, he said: "They were caught by surprise when they were told that they do not want to honour this fixture."

However, he also admitted the players have "areas of deep concern" when it comes to their World Cup contracts.

"They are of the strong view that the football authorities were quite aware of the team qualifying for the World Cup and there are issues that they felt should have been attended to earlier than now.

"Among those issues was their opponents. Without undermining Botswana, they are in a group that has top quality teams and they should have determined who they should play."

The choice of the Tsakane Stadium, 50km east of Johannesburg, is also thought to have been a concern for the players due to the pitch's poor grass coverage. The venue does not host games in the national Premier Soccer League.

South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan

Danny Jordaan was elected president of the South African Football Association in 2013

Bonus row goes global

Last month, football's global governing body, Fifa, for the first time guaranteed all players at the World Cup an appearance fee of $30,000.

But the payments have led to dissatisfaction among players from more than one country, with federations maintaining the money from Fifa was previously distributed to them to pay for bonuses.

England's players are currently in dispute with their football association and it is thought the African champions have similar concerns.

The disruption to Banyana Banyana's preparations has even forced the country's sports minister, Zizi Kodwa, to contact both Jordaan and Safpu.

"I urge the team to be focused on the major task that lies ahead," he said in a statement issued on Monday.

"To prepare to participate and display their immense skill and talent on one of the biggest sporting showcases in the world."

Kodwa also confirmed he would be meeting with Safpu representatives on Tuesday to "consider issues pertaining to the government's commitment and support to the team, the team's working, welfare and health conditions, including transparency and accountability related to the signing of contracts."

Meanwhile, Safa chief executive Lydia Monyepao, herself a former national team player, says a resolution must be found before the squad departs on Wednesday.

"We had a round table where we engaged each other, so we are going to continue the discussions."

Banyana are scheduled to meet Costa Rica in a friendly in New Zealand on 15 July before starting their second World Cup campaign against Sweden on 23 July in a group that also includes Italy and Argentina.

Source: BBC Africa