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Fringe players rescue friendly as Banyana crisis deepens

Neville Khoza Journalist
A makeshift Banyana Banyana team (foreground) leaves the field after their warm-up for a friendly against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium that was supposed to be the send-off game for the African champions at 2023 Women's World Cup. The first team boyocotted the game.
A makeshift Banyana Banyana team (foreground) leaves the field after their warm-up for a friendly against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium that was supposed to be the send-off game for the African champions at 2023 Women's World Cup. The first team boyocotted the game.
Image: Marc Strydom

Thousands of fans who came to support the Banyana Banyana send-off match against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium in the East Rand on Sunday afternoon were left disappointed as a bonus row led to senior players boycotting the fixture.

A makeshift Banyana took the field as senior players who have been called for the national team to represent the country at the Fifa Women's World Cup, to be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia from July 20, refused to play the match, as they demanded they be guaranteed bonuses first.

Safa had to resort to assembling a team at the last moment, made up of fringe players not even considered for the World Cup, to save the fixture, which was attended by Panyaza Lesufi, the Gauteng premier. Lesufi could be seen leading dignitaries for the pre-match handshake with both sets of players, as they lined up for a match which was supposed to kick off at 3pm, but started an hour later before a packed crowd. 

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis only arrived at the venue just before 3pm as she had remained behind with her team trying to resolve a crisis that reportedly started on Saturday. Banyana apparently want R400,000 each for the first three matches against Sweden, Argentina and Italy.

Jubilant fans at the Ekurhuleni venue were largely oblivious to the drama, coming in numbers as they snapped up match tickets which had been made freely available. Mpumelelo Mjoli, a Banyana supporter, said she saw on social media that the team were planning to boycott but he did not believe it and made the trip to Tsakane Stadium.

“I’m very disappointed... if they (the first team) are not coming. You can see there are a lot of supporters here, but they are not here,” he said. “They take us for granted because we came here to support Banyana Banyana and if other players, whom we don’t know, are the ones who are playing, that’s not right.”

Other fans also showed their frustrations by leaving the venue as they didn’t want to watch players they are not familiar with. According to South African Football Player’s Union vice-president Tebogo Monyai, the impasse was about bonuses Banyana would earn from participating in the World Cup.

“They want guarantees to be put in their contract,” Monyai explained to Sowetan. “The issue of bonuses is they are only getting R570,000 per player and that’s the money which Fifa gives players playing in the World Cup. We are asking Safa to give them bonus structures and it seems like they are not interested.”