An Unstable New Dawn: Safa National Women’s League

“Apart from women’s football still not being professionalised, . . . SWNL continues to experience some teething issues. These range from teams having to drive more than 1000km to play their fixtures to referees arriving late,” writes Busisiwe Mokwena.

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By Buyeleni Sibanyoni (6 mins read) 

It was an intense seven-goal thriller at AW Miller Stadium at Auckland Park, which saw the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Ladies up against Durban Ladies Women Football Club on Saturday, 1st February 2020.

The match was part of the inaugural South African Football Association (Safa) National Women’s League (SWNL).

Durban Ladies walked away with the bragging rights by defeating UJ 4-3. An act of perfect revenge after losing 2-1 at home on Saturday, 2nd November 2019, at S.J Smith Stadium, Durban.

In the first half of the game, most of the balls were played in the center. The first few minutes after kick-off saw possession of the ball shared almost equally as both teams tried to prove early domination. 

Five minutes into the game, the Durban goalkeeper had to make a save from UJ’s Nicole Micheal. She tried to score in the eighteen area after Durban players were caught napping, giving Micheal an opportunity to shoot to the left-hand side of the goalkeeper. 

A few minutes after the threatening strike by UJ, pressure continued to loom on Durban. Eventually, it reaped fruit for UJ and resulted in a penalty awarded during the 25th minute, following the eighteen area tackle of Keolebogile Putu. Amanda Mthandi scored the penalty, putting UJ in a 1-0 lead.

The home side continued to put more pressure on Durban defence. This resulted in Putu scoring the second goal for UJ and so extending the lead in the 43rd minute to 2-0.

Trailing at half time, Durban began to dominate UJ in the second half. Slindile Ngubane of Durban Ladies opened the second half with a goal.

A motivated Durban side showed that they wanted an equaliser as they attacked more while the UJ side made silly mistakes. These were consequential. Durban Ladies cut open UJ’s defence, allowing Ntando Joyisa to equalise in the 64th minute and level the scale to 2-2.

After a while, Putu scored a brace putting UJ once more in the lead. Joyisa of Durban Ladies then evened the scores a few minutes after Putu’s goal, partly due to UJ’s celebratory mood.

It seemed the match was going to end in a draw, but Joyisa scored a hattrick in the last minutes of the game, securing a win for the visiting side with a score of 4-3. 

“UJ Ladies played well in the first half and also the first 15 minutes of the second half. The last 30 minutes of the match . . . is when they started to lack in terms of defence,” said football fan Thabiso Patsane.

The details about SWNL

SWNL currently consists of twelve teams. They are Golden Ladies, Richmond Ladies, Tsunami Queens, Bloemfontein Celtic, Thanda Birds, University of Western Cape, Durban Ladies Women Football Club, Coal City Wizards, First Touch Academy, Tshwane University of Technology, Mamelodi Sundowns and the University of Johannesburg. 

“Even with some of the matches being televised and teams playing home and away, the SWNL is still an amateur league,” writes sports journalist Busisiwe Mokwena for New Frame. “Most of the players are schoolgoers or university students, so . . . Safa still has much to do to change the face of the sport.”

Nine provincial winners from the Sasol League National Championships were promoted to form part of SWNL in addition to the three invited teams: Bloemfontein Celtic, Mamelodi Sundowns and the University of Johannesburg.

The first games of the league were played on the weekend of Saturday, 24th and Sunday, 25th August 2019. 

“We recognized that women’s football in South Africa had a missing top. We had a provincial league of Sasol and Banyana Banyana playing internationally and there was no national league,” said Safa President Danny Jordaan.

Every single week, the games are played at a different venue with each province getting a chance to host the games. Each province will be represented in the following way:  

  • Northern Cape: Richmond Ladies 
  • Free State: Tsunami Queens and Bloemfontein Celtic 
  • North West: Golden Ladies Football Club
  • Eastern Cape: Thunderbirds Ladies
  • Western Cape: University of Western Cape
  • KwaZulu Natal: Durban Ladies Women Football Club
  • Mpumalanga: Coal City Wizards 
  • Limpopo: First Touch Academy
  • Gauteng: Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg and Mamelodi Sundowns
Standings of the Safa National Women’s League. Obtained from the SAFA Official Website on Monday, 17th February 2020.

In compiling the fixtures, Safa considered the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) match schedule because the national women’s team relies on the players from the above two leagues for international duty. The league will not be taking place during the FIFA match dates.

Another area of concern has been the prize money due to a lack of a title sponsor.

“The prize money will come at the end of the league . . . We are waiting for all the funding that we are expecting, that we are guaranteed we are getting for us to be able to put those numbers into place,” said Safa Vice-President Ria Ledwaba. “We don’t want to put numbers and change them at a later stage.”

SAFA had to dip into its Legacy Trust Fund for R10 million. This is to bankroll the league by paying for accommodation, travel expenses and monthly grants for the teams as the league has no sponsor. The league was launched with no trophy.

There is currently poor marketing of the league, resulting in poor match attendance. Safa has pleaded the media to market the league and for corporate companies to come on board as sponsors.

Confederation of African Football (CAF) Women’s Football member, Jaqueline Gertze, said, “We need the media, the corporate; the media to convince the corporate. The players [and] the teams to bring themselves to this event. Every time that they (teams) play on and off the field, they are actually marketing the Safa National Women’s League.”

The games are televised on SABC 1 during Saturday and Sunday afternoons. On Sunday, 25th August 2019, the first match was aired. It was between Richmond Ladies and Mamelodi Sundowns.

No team will get relegated in the 2019/2020 season. Two finalists from the Sasol League National Championships will be promoted to SWNL. This will happen until there are 16 teams in the league and then Safa will introduce the promotion and relegation element.

“[W]ith the stronger teams being promoted to the SWNL, the annual (Sasol) playoffs will become less competitive,” says New Frame’s Mokwena. 

JVW Girls Football Club and Limpopo’s Ma-Indies were the finalists at Sasol last year. They are to be added in the 2020/2021 season, increasing the number of teams from 12 to 14. 

On the other hand, “travelling long-distance, decent accommodation and making sure that everyone gets back home safe is a challenge since the league does not have enough funds to cover all the costs,” said UJ Football Manager Joel Kgokong. 

“Apart from women’s football still not being professionalised, . . . SWNL continues to experience some teething issues. These range from teams having to drive more than 1000km to play their fixtures to referees arriving late,” writes Mokwena.

Kgokong further stated, “We hope in the new season the teams and league will attract more sponsors to enable the teams to focus more on improving the league.” 

The league gives the national coaches of the women’s Under-17s, Under-20s and Banyana an opportunity to scout players for the national teams. 

Each club will be playing 22 matches and the last games of the league will be on Sunday, 29th March 2020. Currently, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies are the log leaders. TOJ

Fixtures of the next games. Obtained from SAFA Official website on Monday, 17th February 2020.

Reporting by Buyeleni Sibanyoni. Editing by Magnificent Mndebele, Kupakwashe Kambasha and Gaby Ndongo. Feature image obtained from, South African Football Associations official Facebook page.

1 comments on “An Unstable New Dawn: Safa National Women’s League”

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