Although Bantwana’s impending qualification for the 2018 Fifa Under-17 Women’s World looks like a triumph for women’s football in South Africa, it actually serves as a painful reminder of the lack of organised development for women’s football in the country. It may come as a surprise for some to learn that Bantwana have previously qualified for a women’s U17 world cup. A team including the US based trio Jermaine Seoposenwe, Meagan Newman and Robyn Moodaly represented South Africa at the 2010 tournament. But why were these same players unable to achieve the same feat with Banyana Banyana in the senior ranks? Banyana failed to qualify for Canada 2015 after finishing fourth at the women’s AFCON in Namibia a year earlier.
Bantwana coach Simphiwe Dluldlu believes that it’s taken South Africa eight long years to qualify for another world cup because of the lack of organised development in women’s football. Dludlu hopes that by qualifying for Uruguay, Bantwana will force SAFA’s hand to place more focus on the development of the girl footballer.
After thrashing Morocco 5-1 in the first leg, South Africa need only avoid a heavy defeat in the return leg in North Africa to claim one of three African spots at the 2018 U17 World Cup. That Banyana were unable to do the same in 2014 speaks to the lack of continuity between the Bantwana team that played at the 2010 U17 World Cup and the Banyana team that tried to qualify for Canada 2015.
Astonishingly only one player, Shiwe Nogwanya who played for Bantwana at the 2010 showpiece was included in the Banyana squad that contested the 2014 Women’s Afcon in an effort to qualify for Canada 2015. If South Africa is to benefit from Bantwana’s participation in Uruguay 2018 then more must be done to keep these girls in football such that they form the core of the Banyana squad that will try to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.