Women’s football gets overdue reward

Dusting: Women football could be set for greater heights PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Dusting: Women football could be set for greater heights PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

After years of famine, it could finally be time for the feast for women’s football after this week’s cash injection of P2.43 million from the Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB), observes Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE

Despite facing unending challenges, women’s football has immaculately weathered the storms. From lengthy breaks to no national league, the results have rolled in against odds.

Botswana Football Association (BFA) president, Maclean Letshwiti has said the shortest path to the World Cup is through women’s football.

“The quickest way to the World Cup is through women’s football. Women’s football in Botswana has proven that there is a huge improvement and it should be our deliberate policy at the association to put more resources in women’s football,” he said.

The Mares are emerging as a regional force having reached the final of the COSAFA Cup last year, and slaying South Africa’s giant Banyana Banyana in an Olympic Games qualifier. At the time, South Africa was fresh from participation at the FIFA World Cup and the Mares win ranks among the team’s best.

The women’s senior team is now just two games away from a maiden appearance at the Africa Women Cup of Nations. The Mares face regular opponents Zimbabwe with their tails up after beating Angola 7-0 on aggregate in the first round.

The junior Mares are also doing well in the World Cup qualifiers after thumping Angola 7-1 on aggregate. Double Action acquitted themselves well during the CAF Champions League qualifiers, reaching the semi-final.

Botswana has exported a significant number of players abroad including Sedilame Boseja, who is at Mamelodi Sundowns, Thuto Ramafifi (Albany State University, USA), Warona Molete, Sindy Tsumake, Lone Gaofetoge (Lusaka Dynamos, Zambia), Thanda Mokgabo (Yasa FC, Zambia) and Esalenna Galekhutle, who plays for Tyler Junior College in the US.

What makes the achievements sweeter is that women’s football has taken a back seat for much of the time. There is no national league after the BFA took a deliberate decision to have the games at the regional level, leading to the formation of an elite division. With this week’s kiss of life from DTCB, wheels could turn faster in taking the women’s game to the level it deserves.

Despite poor facilities and generally playing second fiddle to the men’s game, women have persevered. They use open schools grounds as their match day venues while their male counterparts enjoy the lush green turfs of state-of-the-art facilities such as the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium. The men’s game enjoys the best sponsorship deals, at one point running into millions while the women’s league had to feed on crumbs. While the men’s national team coach was reportedly earning a staggering $20,000 (P200,000) a month, the Mares coach, Gaolethoo ‘Ronaldo’ Nkutlwisang is just a volunteer. She recently indicated she is limited from selecting players from across the country due to resources. Her squad is made up of players from the south, but she would like an all-inclusive national side, but she cannot travel the length and breadth of the country to scout for talent due to limited financial resources.

The DTCB sponsorship will see P2million go towards the leagues while the balance of P430,000 will go towards grassroots programmes.

This is indeed a huge milestone for the development of women's football. A former president of FIFA once said, "the future of football is feminine". It’s a significant investment,” Letshwiti said at the sponsorship launch.

DTCB managing director, Sedireng Serumola said it was key for the company to support equality.

“Supporting a culture of equality, diversity and inclusivity is also a national priority. DTCB will continue to promote opportunities of this nature,” Serumola said.

The deal will certainly not balance the equilibrium but provides a welcome significant shift in the Lazarus and the rich man parable. Could this week's landmark deal mark the end of famine and the start of the deserved feast for women’s football with more companies following suit?

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