More women now playing the Beautiful Game

THE South African soccer field has traditionally been a male bastion, but in future soccer supporters might increasingly bew chanting Banyana Banyana over Bafana Bafana, a new study reveals.

THE South African soccer field has traditionally been a male bastion, but in future soccer supporters might increasingly bew chanting Banyana Banyana over Bafana Bafana, a new study reveals.

Research conducted by Spur Soccer Masidlale to get a better understanding of how soccer influences South African teenagers shows that the majority (88percent) of respondents believe that soccer is a sport that should be played by both girls and boys.

"This is extremely encouraging news," says Portia Watson, a female coach and former Tshwane University of Technology soccer player.

"This indicates that the gender gap in soccer is narrowing and that this generation is more accepting of a strong female presence in the game. This is on par with the direction the game is heading for in the US and UK, which boasts a Women's National Premier League," she says.

Watson says in the US, soccer is just as popular for girls as for boys.

"More than 40percent of soccer players in the US are women and it is the most popular women's sport in the country's colleges."

Now in its fifth year, the Spur Soccer Masidlale programme was launched by Spur Steak Ranches in 2005.

This was in response to what the restaurant chain saw as a need to develop soccer and life skills among young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds, leading up to 2010 and beyond.

As of the end of June, more than 22000 pupils across South Africa have been put through their paces in the programme's annual soccer clinics.

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