Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi has confirmed that SAFA’s Executive wanted to expel Banyana Banyana’s World Cup-bound players for boycotting the FIFA World Cup warm-up friendly match against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium on Sunday.
Lesufi, who intervened to solve the impasse, read a document highlighting concerns from players, who said the pitch was not up the standards, not similar to what will be used in the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand/Australia in the next couple of weeks.
Secondly, the players were concerned about clothing, outstanding matters around the technical team and the bonus issue after FIFA guaranteed each player $30,000 (R565,000), in addition to the $1,560,000 (R30 million) each association partaking in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup are getting.
Apparently, according to Lesufi, as much as FIFA confirmed the money distribution to the players a few weeks ago, it was never addressed to the players by SAFA, leading to the standoff.
“Players raised the issue of the trip itself [to the World Cup], in particular the clothing, the technical team, the support team that support them that there are still outstanding matters and other administration matters that are going to go with them,” said Lesufi, who was flanked by the players, SAFPU – the South African Football Players’ Union and SAFA president Danny Jordaan.
“They are of the view that those outstanding matters were not properly clarified and therefore they need those issues, especially the support staff that support them, to be attended to and be resolved.
“They also raised that, if they don’t cooperate, they will not be allowed to play either in this match or also to represent the country and they wanted to know where this communiqué came from so that they are aware that they are still part of the team or not.”
Meanwhile, SAFA insisted because Botswana were already in the country, the association were going to be financially penalised by FIFA since this game was category A and they had no choice but to play the game, since they were the home team and everything was organised including the issue of broadcasters.
SAFA then hastily arranged a team of players in Gauteng, taking players from Hollywood Bets and SASOL Leagues, but they lost 5-0 at the end in what was a poor display.
As the standoff played out, SAFA quickly had a NEC meeting on Sunday morning and, according to Lesufi, it was decided that the players should be expelled and leave the camp.
“The players completely reject SAFA NEC, who took the decision that the ladies should be immediately expelled and leave the camp,” said Lesufi.
“SAFA convened an emergency NEC meeting because never in the history of football has the home team failed to pitch the game. They needed to protect that, also there are penalties that if the home team doesn’t honour its contract, the penalty range around $250,000 (R5 million) and they felt that they needed to protect that.
“Thirdly, Botswana was already here. So they [SAFA] can’t disrespect another country and they needed to put in an alternative team so the brand of our country, the brand of Banyana, is protected.
“But there are areas they [players] felt that needed to be clarified: one, the choice of Tsakane Stadium was not a choice because there were other alternatives.
“They felt the game should have been taken to Mbombela Stadium, when they realised that other stadiums are not available since the team is leaving on Wednesday.
“For them to leave here and go to Mbombela and come back doesn’t make economic sense [to SAFA] and it was only on Friday when the issue was raised and logistical arrangements were already made.”