The recent two day CAF Women’s Symposium held in Morocco may have brought a lot of promise to the growth of women’s football on the continent, however with the recommendations yet to be adopted, it remains to be seen if the event was successful. The event, held under the theme: Raising Our Game, was aimed at bringing forth suggestions on how to increase female participation in the sport which will in turn increase both the number of participants and the standard of competition in continental women’s football tournaments.
Safa, represented by NEC member, Ria Ledwaba suggested that in order to improve African women’s football, member associations should look to introduce girls school leagues. The irony of Ledwaba’s statement is that there are no running school leagues concentrated on the girl child in South Africa. Currently, the only platform that is available for female players is the Sasol League and university football. But with the high stakes in the Sasol League, many of the school girls hardly get a chance to play. The South African Schools Football Association run competitions, such as the Danone Nations Cup U12, McDonald’s Under-14 and Copa Coca Cola U15, but these are only for boys.
With the lack of such competitions for female players at school level, Ledwaba highlighted the importance of the High Performance Centre based at the University of Pretoria ran under the TuksSport School. She used Bantwana captain Linda Motlhalo’s recent move to the USA as an example of the good work the academy does by coaching school kids.
“If we have school sport, then we have mass participation. Parents are comfortable with their 5 year old daughter with a teacher they know rather than a coach. But we must empower the teachers to do what the coaches do. We have seen the benefit of it. Linda went there at 12 years old. She was captain for the Under-20 and now she is going to play in America in a professional team,” she says.
Motlhalo has represented South Africa in all three national women’s teams (U17, U20 and Banyana) and has also played in the Olympics with Banyana Banyana. Ledwaba suggests that the 26 member countries that have already taken part in the Women’s Afcon need to establish institutions like the HPC to further strengthen their women’s football.