As women’s football continues to grow in leaps and bounds in South Africa, there has been an increasing number of Banyana Banyana stars securing deals abroad in the last fortnight.
It is undeniable that many South African women footballers making their way overseas will in turn benefit Banyana Banyana in the long run.
In the space of 10 days, European clubs have snapped up five players. However, many of these players are signing short term contracts.
Former Bantwana forward Kelso Peskin signed a one-year deal with Stade Brestois 29 Feminine in France after only spending six months with Toulouse Féminines in the same country, while Nothando Vilakazi joined EDF Logrono Feminino in Spain for the 2020/2021 season following a short stint with Lithuanian side Gintra-Universitetas.
Amanda Mthandi penned a one-year contract with an option to extend with Spanish outfit CDB Badajoz Feminino and Banyana captain Janine Van Wyk signed a one-year contract with Scottish Champions, Glasgow City.
After seeing out her six-month contract in Spain with Real Betis, Jermaine Seoposenwe put pen to paper on a much longer deal with Portuguese side Sporting Braga (two years). Prior to signing for Betis, Seoposenwe was in the colours of Gintra Universitetas from April 2019.
According to experienced striker Andisiwe Mgcoyi, who has played for a number of teams overseas, there are various reasons as to why many women’s players get offered short term deals.
“Since most countries in Africa don’t have leagues, most clubs abroad don’t really get to see how a player performs at club level and rely on seeing the players at national team level,” said Mgcoyi in an interview with FARPost.
“At times it’s like a gamble and unlike men’s football, the contracts female players get are mostly performance-based and that’s why the longest contract a player can probably get is two years and as you know female soccer players at times would want to settle down and start families, so a longer contract, a 5-year contract for an example would kill the dynamics of a club.
“I ensure that I leave a mark during my one-year contracts, I am one person who likes to explore…when I get an opportunity to sign for teams in top footballing countries such as France, Germany, I opt to sign a 2 or 3-year contract but in other countries, lower leagues I honestly prefer to sign for 1 year because I know that a lot of teams will be interested in me,” concluded Mgcoyi, who is currently on the books of Albanian First Division side KF Apolonia.
In France, Peskin said she was in a bad space and homesickness struck during her short stint of six months in the colours of Toulouse.
“It was a horrible season for me, but don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for the opportunity I got to play for them and I will never forget that as it was my first professional contract – I will always cherish that,” said Peskin.
“I was not in a good state – being in quarantine all alone from March until recently in June was tough. Mentally I was getting frustrated and I was emotionally tired, got really homesick and I was completely drained.
“All my teammates had gone home and I barely spoke French, so it really got to me at some point and I was in a very bad space. But I am fine now and have put it all behind me – I am now looking forward to the next challenge,” added Peskin.
From France to Turkey, football manager Nadia Kroll is of the opinion that some teams sign international players for a short period of time to strengthen their squads for the UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCL).
“One thing I have picked up is that ‘smaller country’ leagues only sign internationals to bolster their UWCL campaigns, they don’t need them for the league but need stronger players to compete in UWCL,” she said.
While in South Africa, Women’s sports content creator, Bhekani Bright Ndebele believes that SA women players pen short deals simply because they come from a non-professional football league, “which is all about probabilities and possibilities of how the player will perform and adapt at the same time.”
“If you take a closer look at the transfers most teams that the players join are teams in semi-professional leagues or even lower divisions, for example, Kelso Peksin, resulting in being a benefit to players themselves not the national team as a whole,” said Ndebele.
“Another point is look back at Janine van Wyk, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana they were all released when the season came to an end at Houston Dash, especially the fact that they were now going to be under a different coach when Vera Pauw left Houston.
“Another one, Kgatlana only stayed six months at Benfica. While when you look closely at Nigeria, they have three or more players in the Spanish top league and probably Sweden as well and their players have been exposed to the overseas standards for quite some time,” added Ndebele.
SA defender Zanele Nhlapo has become the first-ever female player from the country to be appointed captain for a team outside the African borders.
Meanwhile, Mgcoyi’ teammate at Apolonia in Albania, Zanele Nhlapo, who is the captain of the team said, “the reason why we sign those periods of contracts is because we know that after that contract you can still be able to renew the contract if the team still needs you or maybe you might get another better offer from another team you know.
“I think it’s also important as part of gaining more experience all over the world…because in Africa there are fewer opportunities than in Europe that is why we move from team to team because there’s a lot of exposure not only in football but in life as well in terms of opportunities, maybe to study for something in sport and learn different languages.”
RELATED STORY: “By moving abroad, we are closing the gap”
By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi