SA women football reeling from impact of COVID-19

Banyana Banyana
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Women’s football in South Africa is reeling from the effects of COVID-19. It’s been more than a year since any organised women’s club football was allowed to take place.

Prior to the pandemic, women’s football in South Africa was finally starting to mobilise and become professional.

There is hope that leagues around the country will be able to resume from next month. Clubs like JVW FC are getting back to full fitness in anticipation.

JVW FC, formed by Banyana Banyana great, Janine Van Wyk, clinched the National SASOL league championship at the end of 2019. They’re a club on the up, but sadly all that has been put on ice because of the pandemic and the resultant lockdown.

JVW FC have been unable to make their debut in the national league, and the lack of football has deprived players of a year’s play, and pay in many cases.

JVW’s captain, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, says it was not easy to sit idle for more than a year. “It was very hard not playing, just sitting at home even though the coach gave us the programme that we must train at home but you know when you train alone it’s very difficult, but I’m sure everyone is ready.”

Midfielder Mamello Makhabane says COVID-19 changed the whole process in football as they know it. “Honestly we thought that we are jinxed because we qualified to play in the national league. We were so excited to qualify but COVID came. It was no one’s fault, it was a global thing. But now I think we are so excited to be back. When we first heard that we will resume training we were all excited and I think all of us are hungry to play and we can’t wait.”

The good news is that non-professional football has now been given permission to start training again.

JVW FC wasted no time in getting back on the pitch, in anticipation that the league will begin early next month. It’s been a 14-month lay-off for the players, requiring a lot of mental strength and introspection.

Nyandeni says the players are happy to be back on the playing field.

“I think everyone is happy that finally, we are going to play the SAFA Women’s League with the likes of Sundowns, TUT and UWC.”

Robyn Moody says everyone will get a chance. “Now we are going to be on television, so I think with the sponsors and everything we are getting the exposure that we need. Also for the players who are not part of the national team, they are getting their exposure as well. So, it’s something I’m looking for…”

The task at hand now is to continue to grow the women’s game and build on all the hard-won gains in recent years.

“We qualified for the World Cup I think it was a great achievement for women’s football in South Africa. From now on, we must not drop our standard. We have to qualify for another World Cup.  From now on I think everyone must be hungry to go to the World Cup.”

Banyana Banyana’s World Cup appearance in 2019 forced the powers to take the women’s game seriously. With everything on the line, those committed to the game will not let that momentum go to waste.