In 2017, it became public news that there will be a national women's soccer league and the planning for this project is well under way. The 13th of August this year marked the first day of several in which representatives of the South African Football Association (SAFA), travelled to all provinces to discuss the progression of women's soccer in South Africa. Leading this drive is vice president of SAFA, Ria Ledwaba, who spoke to us about the plans for the league.
According to the SAFA.net, the provincial meetings will serve as a platform for club owners and all stakeholders involved in the women’s game to express some of the grievances they might have experienced, and to discuss how they can move forward from those experiences as a collective. "The plan is to first have their input: they're buying into the concept that we have put together as women", Ria said to us.
One of the matters on the agenda for the meetings is the structure for the upcoming league. "We have two options: the one option is to have 12 league teams, and the other option is to have 16 league teams."
Twelve teams, as Ria expressed, would be more "achievable and financially liable" than 16. "A 12 team league means that for the two consecutive years there will be no relegation, there will only be promotion," she said. This means that the teams will have an opportunity to grow and stabilise. The 12 teams that will play in the inaugural league will comprise of the nine teams from the Sasol League, the University of Johannesburg's (UJ) team, and the Bloemfontein Celtics and Mamelodi Sundowns women's teams.
If everything goes according to plan, Ria said, the inaugural national women’s league will kick-off next year, 2019.
Thato Letsoso, the captain of UJ's women's team, shared her sentiments about the upcoming women's league with us. "I feel honoured that I led my team to the national league," she said; commending her team for qualifying to play at a national level. In noting the importance of having a women's league, she said that the league would grant them the opportunity to be recognised nationally and internationally, while making it easier to join the Banyana Banyana team in future.
Some of the issues around women's soccer are that it doesn't receive as much attention as men's soccer does. Although this may be demotivating, Ria believes that projects such as this can and will shine the spotlight onto women's soccer in South Africa. For her, one of the solutions to the problem lies in encouraging young girls to play and engage in soccer from a young age.
This league is not only for the upcoming soccer player to look forward to, but for the current players to grow in. Because of this initiative, Ria believes that it is possible for Banyana Banyana to reach World Cup status. "When they qualify for the World Cup, then we know that this league will definitely assist them," she said.
For Thato, this might be the break that every female player needs. "I would like to see a league that is like the PSL," she said; "my dream is to play in the FIFA women's World Cup."
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