South Africa’s women’s national soccer team — known as Banyana Banyana — boycotted Sunday’s World Cup send-off game at Tsakane Stadium in Brakpan, South Africa.
Multiple issues — from World Cup compensation to field conditions to the quality of the opponent — have been cited as reasons for the boycott.
SABC Sport, a division of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, reported that players boycotted the send-off match against Botswana after they demanded that their national federation — the South American Football Association (SAFA) — provide a more suitable venue for the friendly game, like one that was used for the 2010 FIFA (Men’s) World Cup.
“The players said they want to discuss (issues) with (SAFA). Firstly, there are conditions of employment and issues such as health and safety at Tsakane Stadium, where the pitch is not okay. We’ve raised this issue with them, and they said they will revert,” South African Football Players’ Union president Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe told SABC Sport.
The field at Tsakane Stadium reportedly does not meet FIFA standards and South Africa’s Premier Super League teams do not play games at the venue as a result.
South African players also reportedly took issue with the quality of their opponent; Botswana is ranked 150th in the World and has never qualified for the Women’s World Cup.
In a video posted to the Players’ Union twitter account, World Cup compensation is also cited as one of the sticking points for the World Cup players.
Situation currently at @Banyana_Banyana camp! @FIFPRO @FIFProAfrica pic.twitter.com/aVjv8u3sn5— South African Football Players Union (@SAFPU_Official) July 2, 2023
Situation currently at @Banyana_Banyana camp! @FIFPRO @FIFProAfrica pic.twitter.com/aVjv8u3sn5
SABC Sport reported that the South American Football Association (SAFA) threatened to send players home if they didn’t compete. When the World Cup players refused to back down ahead of the game, SAFA quickly assembled a back-up team to play the game.
“I had to put a team on the field so I put a team on the field today,” South Africa’s head coach Desiree Ellis told SABC Sport, though she deflected questions about the boycott and situation with the federation.
After a one-hour game delay due to the turmoil, the back-up team went on to lose to Botswana, 5-0.
South Africa’s World Cup send-off match was only confirmed days ago. “We just want to thank the Football Association getting us a send-off match. We know it has been a difficult task, we are really grateful and we ask the fans to come out in their numbers to support this team and to give us a fantastic send-off,” Ellis said in a press release announcing the game.
🔔 𝔹𝔸ℕ𝕐𝔸ℕ𝔸 𝔹𝔸ℕ𝕐𝔸ℕ𝔸 𝕌ℙ𝔻𝔸𝕋𝔼 🔔 #SABCSPort crew on the latest updates from Tsakane Stadium regarding Banyana Banyana match against Botswana.#SABCSportFootball pic.twitter.com/X1OhJZP1kI— SABC Sport (@SABC_Sport) July 2, 2023
🔔 𝔹𝔸ℕ𝕐𝔸ℕ𝔸 𝔹𝔸ℕ𝕐𝔸ℕ𝔸 𝕌ℙ𝔻𝔸𝕋𝔼 🔔 #SABCSPort crew on the latest updates from Tsakane Stadium regarding Banyana Banyana match against Botswana.#SABCSportFootball pic.twitter.com/X1OhJZP1kI