With the participating teams of FIFA women’s world Cup now increased to 24 teams, the Banyana Banyana has found it increasingly difficult to qualify for the women’s World Cup since its inception in 1991 and in eight tries, they have never qualified except in 1991 when they were banned by FIFA.
Even though South Africa seemingly has it all (in comparison to other African Nations) – Infrastructure, Preparatory games, finest technical etc., the top prize of qualifying for the world’s biggest showpiece still eludes them.
Recently, they qualified for their first Olympic Games (London 2012) but only picked up a point following a goalless draw against Japan.
If Banyana Banyana are to qualify for the 2019 showpiece, here are three things they need to do.
1. Bring Portia Modise out of retirement:
The former Soweto Ladies FC striker is still one of the best strikers in Africa and deserves credit for it.
In last year’s AWC in Namibia, she hit the record for the first and only African female player to reach the elusive 100 goal-mark in international football when Banyana Banyana beat Algeria 5-1.
She’s also one of only two Africans alongside Nigeria’s Perpetua Nkwocha, to be shortlisted for the FIFA Women’s World player of the year. She’s been an inspiration to young girls in South Africa and beyond.
Her record of 0.81 goal average per game when compared to America’s Abby Wambach’s 0.776 goal average per game who is currently the highest goal scorer with 188 goals for county alone is stunning.
Also, her stunning and Audacious 45-yard goal from the centre circle in the Olympics against Sweden just shows one how much quality and experience she brings to her side and at just 32 years of age, it’s just too premature for her to retire.
Even though there has been reports of disagreements with the South African football association and also the fact that she’s been relegated to a squad player under Vera Pauw; the current South African coach which led to her retirement, it is quite obvious that she needs to be recalled back from retirement.
Sometimes, quality players come with baggage but the coaches and football associations’ almost always curb it.
After all, you can’t throw the baby with the bath water.
2. Rebuild the home grown talents.
If you look at the best teams in Africa, they’ve always thrived on developing and building their youth teams. Take a look at the Super Falcons of Nigeria. Their regular participation in FIFA age grade tournaments has churned out the likes of Desire Oparanozie, Okobi, Asisat Oshoala, Francesca Ordega, Loveth Ayila, Courtney Dike, to name a few. These players now make up the spine of the Falcons.
However, it’s different kettle of fish for South Africa.
The country has qualified just once for the U-20 World Cup- Trinidad and Tobago 2010. The only notable player from that squad is Jermaine Seopensenwe who scored a brace against Gabon in the 2016 Rio Olympics qualifier earlier in the year.
The Asian teams are also in that trend. The likes of China, Japan and Australia are so dependent on introducing the younger players and their football is growing because of the influx of home grown talents therefore, it was no surprise or coincidence that three of the five teams that reached the ongoing World Cup Finals, qualified for the quarter finals in Canada.
This needs to be imbibed by the South African football association and this is primarily done by investing more in the youth teams, tour the country, search Primary schools and colleges for young girls hungry and able to play for the nation.
3. Bayana Bayana needs to get past the jinx and hoodoo called ”Qualifiers”
The history of South African women’s football can nearly be linked to the fate of their male counterparts; littered with glorious failures and missed opportunities.
In key games, they’ve had it uneasy. Losing heavily to Nigeria 9-1, in the game that would have seen them qualify for the 2011 Women’s World Cup and in 2014, losing to Ivory Coast who were ”underdogs” losing in the third place at AWC.
Banyana Banyana are the real definition of the ”nearly” team.
They’ve always been one game away from reaching the world stage or winning the nations cup and they’ve choked miserably.
Make no mistake, South African football has come a long way over the years with input from the football association with friendlies, recruitment of an experienced coach on Vera Pauw and better treatment of their players unlike some African countries.
It remains to be seen if all these can pay dividends for the Banyana Banyana.
If it’s luck or voodoo (I cringe) restricting South Africa from reaching those lofty heights, it needs to change and whoever holds the key to Lady Luck can tell her Bayana Bayana needs her help sooner.
Credits: Wikipedia, UEFA.com, Fifa.com.