I raise my hand and admit I have let down women footballersThomas Kwenaite
Since the return of the triumphant Banyana Banyana from the successful African Women Cup of Nations tournament in Morocco, the topic of conversation within the South African landscape has been the remuneration disparity between the men and female national football teams in the country.
It is certainly time that we do away with all the red herrings and engaged in an honest conversation regarding rewards or payments allocated for our brave compatriots – both men and women – that sacrifices and go on duty in defence of our motherland, often in the face of great adversity.
It should not matter that the soldiers going to represent the country are men or women, the bottom line is that when the national anthem is played, there are no verses within Nkosi sikelel’ that indicate that the version is for women but the anthem basically reminds everyone that these are South Africans irrespective of race or gender.
I guess Banyana Banyana have exposed our collective hypocrisy as men, myself included, because much as their game has developed, we have always somehow felt it was a novelty, that it (women game) still lacked finesses, refinement or some such nonsense but the girls have blown to smithereens all those notions.
If anything, they showed cohesion in Morocco, shared the ball among themselves nicely while patiently probing their way forward. There was such a beautiful structure within the team that they were simply a joy to watch. I’d like anyone who said they were not impressed to raise their hands!
I have earlier admitted to be a hypocrite and let me tell you why I admitted my own short comings. As a member of the fourth estate, throughout the years that I have been a practicing journalist, I would say I’ve spent 95% of my time writing about men football and the other 5% about the women.
In spite of the heart-ache, the disappointment and failures of Bafana Bafana, I have nonetheless spent large chunks of my time and newspaper space writing about the male game. I have done features and profiles about the men and whenever I have written something about the females it had always been as a “just by the way.”
We have a fledging Hollywood Bet National League that is played on a weekly basis in South Africa. But I admit to have hardly bothered to write about the rising stars of the women game, the consistent performers or even preview their games, which I admit that it fills me with shame.
I focus on the DStv Premier League, the men’s league and the dominance of Mamelodi Sundowns with their “Three Musketeers” of coaches and how Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates have capitulated and dropped the ball, allowing Masandawana to run riot and unchallenged with the ball.
Yet the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies have equally dominated the Hollywood Bet League championship, destroyed their opposition in the COSAFA region and to prove that they are a force to reckon with, brought home the inaugural CAF Champions League trophy.
Again, I admit that while I can rattle the names of the Sundowns men team’s line-up with my eyes closed, I only know that Andile “Sticks” Dlamini is their goalkeeper, who by the way has been voted by CAF as the best goalkeeper across Africa and that “Juice” Mbane is their central defender.
I also know that Jerry Tshabalala is their coach; that poster girl Thalea Smidt and Lehlogonolo Mashigo are their midfielders while Melinda Kgadiete and Rhoda Mulaudzi are their strikers, other than that, I would have to scratch my head to pick up the names of the other players.
I bow my head in utter shame and admit that I’ve given the girls the short end of the stick in terms of giving them equal exposure across the media platforms that I have worked on be electronic or print and for that I promise to reform my myopic tendencies.
There is no way that the women game can develop and pick up commercial partners if we in the media do not allocate them enough publicity within the space and I personally promise to do my bit henceforth to be true to my calling and give credit where it is due.