S'Busiso Mseleku

Banyana on a wing and a prayer

2014-10-24 09:35
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
Johannesburg - Banyana Banyana have been on a wing and a prayer since the beginning of the African Women's Championships (AWC) in Namibia last week.

Long before their 2-1 loss to Nigeria in the semi-finals, our women's national soccer team were far from impressive.

They went into the tournament on a high following an impressive run of results in their preparations.

Their smooth-sailing run included a 10-0 walloping of Botswana.

But alas!

They failed to take that kind of form to the eight-nation tournament which serves as a qualifier for next year's FIFA Women's World Cup that will be held in Canada.

Banyana Banyana had their followers scrambling for calculators as they stumbled to a 1-0 defeat against Cameroon in their opener.

It got from bad to worse when they played to a 1-all draw against Ghana.

This meant that they had to beat Algeria - and do so thoroughly - in their final Group B match, as a slender victory and a huge one by Ghana would mean curtains.

They obliged and trashed the Algerians 5-1 to progress, as Ghana could only manage a 1-0 victory over group leaders, Cameroon.

Even at that stage, I was not convinced that they would beat the Super Falcons of Nigeria.

Now they have to beat Ivory Coast - who went down 2-1 to Cameroon in the other semi-final -  to ensure a place at next year's World Cup as only the top three nations will qualify.

This is not going to be easy.

I must be honest, even if Vera Pauw's charges qualify for the World Cup, I see them becoming the whipping girls of the tournament.

It does indeed seem that there is still a long way for our girls to go to become world-beaters.

In this tournament, they have continued the trend of South African football teams who don't take their fate into their own hands.

They had no business losing to Cameroon in the opening match. They also had no business playing to a 1-all draw against Ghana.

As a result, they went into their final group stage match against Algeria under severe pressure having to win by a respectable margin.

Going into the semi-final, it was obvious that they were in no position to beat Nigeria who have been at the helm of African women's football for a while now. This assessment was purely based on their performances in their two opening fixtures.

With the facilities we have as a country, our girls should be at a better level.

This calls for SAFA to review the women's football structure in this country.

It recently emerged following questions from the DA to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula that women's sports were heavily short-changed when compared to their male counterparts.

This discrepancy needs to be addressed - and soon.

There is a dire need for a strong national women's soccer league. Our girls need to be constantly exposed to high-pressure competitions and we need to export more players overseas.

But they will not get any contracts if they are mediocre.

Whether our girls qualify for the World Cup, there is obviously a lot of work for national coach Pauw and her technical team to do to get our girls to a world standard.

Currently, they are not!

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    banyana banyana  |  s'busiso mseleku  |  soccer

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