By Busisiwe Mokwena
It was back in 2001 that then Safa President Molefi Oliphant announced that South Africa would have a professional women’s football league by 2003. It’s 2018 and we are still waiting. Seventeen years later these promises continue, the latest coming from newly reelected Safa President Danny Jordaan who announced upon his re-election two weeks ago that his next five year term in charge would see a shift to focus on women’s football and finally get the professional league off the ground in 2019.
Following Jordaan’s landslide 95% victory at the elections, long serving Safa NEC member, Ria Ledwaba was appointed as one of the vice presidents. She is the first woman to take up this post and has been given the task of making the women’s professional league a reality.
Is Ledwaba’s appointment good for those who still believe that South Africa will one day have a professional women’s league? There is no doubt that Ledwaba has made questionable comments about women’s footballers in the past, for example in 2005 she suggested that female footballers should adopt skimpier and sexier kits in order to attract sponsors. Perhaps her views have changed since 2005?
Attitudes on women’s football aside, what about the technical requirements to get a professional women’s football league off the ground? Are the teams and players of the Sasol League ready?
Firstly, there are teams that still don’t honour their matches while some are forced to play games with as little as eight players because the others couldn’t attend. In April, Luso Africa went to their Sasol League game against Mamelodi Sundowns ladies with only eight players. They obviously lost the match but they didn’t even finish the match. Luso players left the field after conceding their eighth goal. Because the match was abandoned, how will this affect Sundowns when it comes to the end of the season and goal difference becomes important? Should Luso be penalized for their actions on the day? What kind of sanction should they face?
Secondly, the level of competition in the Sasol League is not improving. The same teams that have been dominating Sasol League when it began are still the same teams that are winning provincial titles and contesting the national finals today. In the Free State for example, Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies have completely dominated women’s football. The province has only been represented by Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies in the Sasol League National Championships since its inception in 2009. The same is true in the Western Cape where Cape Town Roses have been unbeatable over the last decade. They have played in the eight of the nine National Champs by virtue of winning right out of nine provincial titles. In order for a professional women’s football league to start and be a success we must improve the quality of play and depth of players in the each of the 144 Sasol League teams in South Africa.