Patrice Motsepe, the President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), has stepped in to address a dispute between the South African women’s national team and the country’s football association, according to a source familiar with the matter. The 61-year-old, who hails from South Africa, is set to disclose details of his intervention in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
The dispute, which had caused considerable embarrassment for South Africa and the entire African continent, demanded immediate attention, given that some South African players were scheduled to depart for New Zealand on Wednesday. A CAF source, speaking on condition of anonymity, remarked, “Something had to be done, and quickly, with some South African players scheduled to leave for New Zealand tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Due to an insufficient number of business-class seats, the squad, coaches, and officials will be traveling to New Zealand in two separate groups, departing on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The joint hosts of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, Australia and New Zealand, will witness the participation of South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, and Zambia as representatives of the African continent.
Motsepe’s intervention primarily focused on resolving contract issues that arose when squad members discovered that their contracts did not include the promised $30,000 (27,500 euros) appearance fee, pledged by FIFA to each of the 23 players. As a result, the team was unable to play a send-off match against Botswana, which took place near Johannesburg last Sunday. In a hastily arranged match, a team comprising South African lower league players suffered a 5-0 defeat.
The women’s national team, affectionately known as Banyana Banyana (The Girls in isiZulu), expressed discontent with the choice of venue, citing concerns about the sub-standard pitch that could potentially lead to injuries. Additionally, the team was disappointed with the selection of Botswana, a team ranked 96 places lower than South Africa, and desired more formidable opponents.
Before the farewell match controversy, South Africa had engaged in warm-up matches against Uzbekistan (victory), Slovenia (draw), and Brazil (twice), Australia, and Serbia (defeats). Forward Jermaine Seoposenwe, speaking to the public broadcaster SABC, expressed a differing opinion from the South African Football Association (SAFA), stating, “Safa might feel they have done enough, but I have a different opinion. But at the end of the day, I am a player, and my job is to come here, play, and then leave.” Seoposenwe currently plays for Mexican club CF Monterrey.
As the 54th-ranked team in the world, South Africa faces an uphill battle in Group G, which includes former runners-up Sweden (3), Italy (16), and Argentina (28). In preparation for the World Cup, South Africa will engage in a warm-up match against fellow qualifiers Costa Rica on July 15 before commencing their campaign eight days later against Sweden in Wellington.