Banyana Banyana award-winning coach Desiree Ellis has urged South Africa’s two biggest football clubs in Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates to ‘take women’s football to another level’ as well as attract sponsors.
In the Premier Soccer League (PSL), only Mamelodi Sundowns and Bloemfontein Celtic have women’s teams competing in the Sasol League and the SAFA Women’s National League (SWNL) which was launched last year in Soweto.
Ellis believes that PSL clubs should be forced to have women’s teams to grow, draw big audiences and also develop the women’s game.
“I don’t want to use the word but PSL clubs should be forced to have women’s teams. And not just have a women’s team for the sake of having it but give them support and the necessary development similar to what they are giving to their male counterparts,” Ellis told the South African Football Journalists Association (Safja).
Women’s football in South Africa has seen a decade of progress but there is much more to do.
With Sasol the only sponsor in the forefront of growing and uplifting women’s football, the Sasol League was established almost a decade ago and Banyana have since qualified for back-to-back Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016.
Ellis was in charge when Banyana took part in their first ever FIFA World Cup in France last year.
Back in 2018, Ellis led South Africa to the final of the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) where they lost to Nigeria’sSuper Falcons.
On top of that, Thembi Kgatlana scooped the African Women’s Footballer of the Year gong in 2018 and Ellis walked away with Coach of the Year accolade in 2018 and 2019. Meanwhile, a bunch of Banyana stars such as Refiloe Jane (AC Milan) and Jermaine Seoposenwe (Real Betis) have secured big overseas moves.
“The only big team in England that didn’t have a women’s team was Manchester United. Now, they have the team. It was the same with Real Madrid. You’ve seen how the Spanish leagues have grown and how the sponsorship has improved,” added Ellis.
“Sasol’s support has contributed to Banyana’s growth. Kgatlana is with Portuguese giants Benfica, while Refiloe Jane is at Italian powerhouse AC Milan.
“I know that Jessica Motaung (Chiefs marketing director) has been asked many times (about forming a women’s team) even by FIFA. I don’t know what is the stumbling block. I ask them once again to take women’s football to another level. Maybe they are still looking at the cost.
Ellis concluded: “If you see what they spend in the men’s team, the cost will be like a drop in the ocean. They already have so many women supporters. That (investing in women football) will help increase their fan base. If they come on board, it will change the landscape of women’s football in the country.”
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By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi