They do not have the luxury of extended camps or a fully functional league, but they have shown determination and resilience in the face of adversity. It is a local plight, which mirrors an enduring global battle of the sexes, observes Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE
For starters, the women’s soccer team has failed to conclusively attract a nickname. ‘She Zebras, Mares and Female Zebras’ have been thrown around without firm success. The team faces an identity crisis, while their male counterparts are a known, but stuttering brand.
The women’s national league has not been played for two seasons, with the Botswana Football Association (BFA) preferring to break it into regions.
The women’s games are played in bare grounds at mostly public schools, while their male counterparts enjoy the lush green fields scattered across the country. It has been a classic analogy of the cliché, ‘all animals are equal but some are more equal than others’.
Advocacy groups, not just within Botswana, but globally, have sang from the same hymnbook regarding the plight of women in sport, but their voices’ impact has been minimal.
It is a battle that has proven to be a gargantuan task. Without a competitive national league, national team coaches are forced to pick the tried and trusted female warriors, with little benefit of trying out emerging talent.
The women’s team has performed admirably, particularly their run at the last edition of the COSAFA Cup in South Africa, where they matched their more resourced and established counterparts. They held South Africa’s Banyana Banyana, who are through to the 2019 Women’s World Cup, to a draw, and were the more adventurous side. In the other game, they beat Malawi 2-0, despite limited preparations.
Various sport industry players are complicit in contributing to the uneven situation in the battle of the sexes. It is a global topic, which has sucked in even top players like Novak Djokovic, who argued in 2017 that the women’s prize money cannot be equal to that of their counterparts due to the men’s game pulling power.
Both Djokovic and Rafa Nadal said men should earn more as they bring more revenue than women.
Their views drew mixed reactions, with some critics arguing, audience was not necessarily based on gender, with a player like Serena Williams, with considerable pulling power. The women’s game is seen as riding on the coat tails of their male counterparts, an argument which, however, has been criticised.Locally, across sport codes, women have played second fiddle to their male counterparts.
In football, the differences are glaring, as the women’s game still lags behind. The Botswana Football Association (BFA) has repeatedly said there is need to, not necessarily bridge the gap, but push participation levels.The men’s game has attracted more numbers as well as sponsorship deals, largely due to the manner in which it is packaged, and always placed at a vantage point, compared to the women’s game.
It extends right up to the FIFA World Cup, where the men’s game has been the cash cow and mainstay of the world soccer governing body.
Tonight, as the women’s team emerges from the National Stadium dug-out, the thunderous roars that usually greet their male counterparts would be missing.
Caretaker coach, Alex Malete said ideally, they would have liked to play without any counter attractions from the BTC Premiership. But just an hour after the women’s team kicks-off, Mochudi Centre Chiefs and Sharps Shooting Stars will do battle in Molepolole in a BTC Premiership tie.
“We need support. It would have been nice if there were no (Premiership) games (on the night), but we cannot dwell much on that. We need to focus on our game,” Malete said. He said selecting a team was a challenge in the absence of a national league as some of the regions were inactive. Botswana Premier League (BPL) chief executive officer, Thabo Ntshinogang said they learnt of the women’s team participation late when they had already sent out BTC Premiership fixtures.
“There will only be one game that will be played at the same time as the national team. The rest will be played on Saturday and Sunday. Again, we only came to know about the women’s national team game on Monday when the BTC Premiership fixtures were out,” Ntshinogang said.