S'Busiso Mseleku

Future looks bright for SA national teams, but...

2016-04-20 13:57
Sport24 columnist S'Busiso Mseleku (File)

Banyana Banyana - the senior South African football female team - have long been flag-bearers.

It is just a pity that due to long entrenched prejudices, women still don't earn anywhere near what their male counterparts make from playing football.

Last week's Rio Olympics draw once more brought forth the fact that South Africa is among the elite - others being Germany, Sweden and Colombia - that will have both their male and female teams representing them in Brazil in August.

That both SA national teams drew hosts Brazil in their Groups, was just an unlucky roll of the dice.

For the record, the Under-23's are in the Group A with Brazil, Iraq and Denmark while Banyana Banyana will grace Group E with Sweden and China.

On the surface, Banyana Banyana Group seems to be the toughest as Sweden and China are giants in women football while the Under-23's task seems a bit easier if they can overcome Iraq and Denmark.

However, there are no guarantees in global tournaments.

However, the Under-23's coach Owen da Gama has pointed out that they had to eliminate Senegal to make it to Brazil as one of two African representatives.

Banyana Banyana on the other hand, have been growing gradually and actually seem closer to becoming African champions in the not so distant future.

Their mentor, Vera Pauw, has already said that her ladies will use the Olympic Games as part of their preparations for the Africa Women Cup of Nations Championships that will be played in Cameroon in November.

They easily qualified for this event, knocking out Botswana in the process.

The ladies have been so close to becoming African champs on several occasions that it hurts. In many instances they have been blocked by Nigeria who seem to have become their nemesis.

They have lost in the final four times - 1995, 2000, 2008 and 2012.

Their worst performances were in 1998 and 2004 when they were eliminated at the Group stages of the tournament. They came fourth in 2014 while in 2006 and 2010, they finished third.

With such results, it should only be a matter of time before they annex the title.

So having both teams at the Olympics, is a huge step for South African football. It is a giant stepping stone, from which the country can build a culture of not only qualifying for big tournaments, but winning them.

The experience of participating in such tournaments will go a long way in nurturing young South African players for the global stage.

And instead of doomsayers keeping on reminding the Under-23 team that they will face a Brazilian side with a red-hot Neymar, Da Gama and company must encourage the youngsters by telling them that a Benni McCarthy-led South Africa beat a Brazilian side that boasted Ronaldinho at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

So, anything is possible.

Here is wishing our two teams all of the best at the Rio Olympic Games.     

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:    olympics 2016  |  s'busiso mseleku  |  soccer


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