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Safa must learn to listen – Kgatlana

Banyana striker says pre-World Cup drama could have been avoided

Mahlatse Mphahlele Sports reporter
Banyana Banyana vice captain Thembi Kgatlana.
Banyana Banyana vice captain Thembi Kgatlana.
Image: Masi Losi

Striker Thembi Kgatlana has blasted the South African Football Association (Safa) for not taking Banyana Banyana seriously when they raised concerns about playing their Women’s World Cup send-off match against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium in Ekurhuleni.

There were chaotic scenes when Banyana boycotted the match on July 2, with Safa opting to field a makeshift South African team to honour the international friendly and save themselves from further embarrassment or a sanction from Fifa.

Banyana made history, becoming the first South African senior national team to progress past a World Cup group stage in New Zealand and Australia, losing 2-0 against Netherlands in the last 16.

Speaking to media while attending a breakfast hosted by Sports Minister Zizi Kodwa to recognise Banyana and the Netball Proteas after playing at their respective World Cups, the outspoken Kgatlana said Safa would not listen.

“This situation could have been solved earlier because we told the federation that we don’t want to play in Tsakane,” she said. 

“It was mainly because of the facilities, you look at Tsakane and the stadiums that we played in at the World Cup and it is two different things.

“You look at pitches in the [Safa women's] Hollywoodbets Super League, it is probably the same standard as Tsakane but that is not good enough going to the World Cup. If we agreed to play at Tsakane, someone will want to trap a ball and it would go up or down and people would have criticised us thinking that we could not even trap the ball. 

“That would not have been a true reflection – it would have been about the facility. In Tsakane the ball bounces four to five times before someone touches it and in the World Cup pitches are watered and the pace of the game and the ball is quick.” 

“We said to the federation that we did not’ want to play at Tsakane because the stadium was not of the same standard the one we. were going to play on a week later at the World Cup.

“I think we were not listened to and that’s why we took the action of not going to play at Tsakane. The issue was not that we wanted to boycott the match, we wanted to play, but not at Tsakane. 

“There are many stadiums we could have gone to play at outside Gauteng. [Safa] told us that the issue was pitches were being conditioned in preparation for the coming [South African domestic] season. 

“That is not a problem – there are many stadiums in the country and I don’t want to believe that Tsakane was the only available option for us. It was very sad to see that our demands were not taken seriously, and that’s why we had to do what we did.” 

Botswana, ranked 150th, were also a poor choice of opponent for a send-off match to a World Cup, where Banyana would meet top 30-ranked Sweden, Argentina and Italy in group G.

England and Spain contest Sunday's Women's World Cup final at Stadium Australia in Sydney (noon).

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