Johannesburg - SA Football Association (Safa) assistant technical director Fran Hilton-Smith has encouraged female players to push for overseas moves, despite the scheduled introduction of a women’s national league next year.
Safa president Danny Jordaan, after being re-elected unopposed, has insisted that South Africa will have a national women’s league.
Hilton-Smith said the league would bridge the gap between local players and overseas-based players, but she would still like to see more players go overseas.
“To see local players going overseas is still a priority because there are players such as Thembi Kgatlana, Linda Motlhalo, Janine van Wyk already there,” Hilton-Smith said.
“The standard is much higher and they play for clubs, such as Houston Dash, and they meet the cream of the US’s national team players.”
Kgatlana is the latest female player to move overseas, joining Dash in January. The US team is the most successful in international women’s soccer, winning three Women’s World Cup titles. They are ranked number one in the world.
“That is why we want our players to be exposed to top-quality football and rub shoulders with top team-mates overseas. As much as the professional league is a huge priority, so is playing overseas,” she said.
The coaching instructor said the South African senior national team is close to dominating Africa and then the world.
“I think we’re pretty close,” she said. “We lost to Sweden in January, but we really put up a good performance.”
She said Safa preferred Banyana Banyana to play teams outside Africa because European teams played against one another frequently.
“We try to get competition in Africa, but the competition is not very stiff against African teams. They don’t play regularly and, as a result, they are slow to pick up.”
She used Nigeria as an example – its women’s team hasn’t played a game in two years. This, Hilton-Smith said, made it hard for Safa to organise games against other African teams.
Another issue was getting Europeans to come and play the sport in South Africa.
Last week, women’s football’s prime sponsor Sasol launched a new initiative to encourage the public to support women who play football. It is called Sasol Limitless.
Jordaan hinted a fortnight ago that Mzansi could host the Women’s World Cup.
“We were scheduled to host the last U-20 World Cup [in 2016, which ended up being hosted in Canada], then there were complications and we withdrew our bid,” he said.
Hilton-Smith said that hosting the Women’s World Cup would be “massive”.
“We have probably some of the best facilities in the world ... and certainly hope that, when the time comes to bid, we will.”
Jordaan said the country would like to follow in the footsteps of previous nations, which, after hosting the men’s World Cup, went on to host the women’s version.
He said Safa would set up a strategic committee to investigate this prospect. Once this was done, Safa would engage with Sport and Recreation Minister Tokozile Xasa.
He said the success of the 2010 World Cup would help the country in its bid to host the Women’s World Cup.