By Mbangwa Xaba

History was made in Rabat, Morocco, on Saturday, 24 July when the South African women’s football team burst into the African and global limelight with dazzling brilliance and class.
Rising above all other national sporting teams here at home, Banyana has put the Madiba nation back on the world map, for all the right reasons.
Hats off to master coach, Desiree Ellis, the diminutive and unassuming 59-year-old from Salt River, Cape Town, and her gifted players.
South Africa is proud of award-winning Andile Dlamini, her fellow players and sisters, the likes of Bambanani Mbane, Karabo Dhlamini, Hildah Magaia and Jermaine Seoposengwe, among others.
Their emphatic 2-1 drabbing of the host nation to clinch the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) for the first time stunned spectators who had packed Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium to rafters into silence.
And that moment rightly belonged to coach Ellis who worked hard for this well-deserved victory.
A few days before the final, she was crowned the queen of all women football coaches on African soil. In a royal gesture, befitting of the magnanimous prayer of gratitude, Ellis fell on her knees to offer a prayer to the heavens when Rwandan referee Salima Mukansanga blew the final whistle.
The gesture was appropriate. With that blow of a whistle, Mukansanga confirmed Ellis as the only woman coach ever to win this title!
It was a long time coming. This was her sixth attempt; the last five finals were without success. It was also her third successive Women’s Coach of the Year Award.
The build-up was steady, focussed and consistent. Ellis started by turning around the fortunes of the women’s team from 2016 when she came in as a caretaker coach while the South African Football Association (Safa) searched for a “suitable” coach. She remained in the job for nearly two years before Safa offered it to her full-time.
From then on, the name Desiree Ellis became synonymous with outstanding women’s football in South Africa. She was in charge of the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final – losing on penalties to Nigeria – and qualified for the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup for the first time in the national team’s history.
What is more, she has booked South Africa’s spot at the 2023 Women’s World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand.
And that’s not all. She has also unmasked an endemic disease that has been plaguing football for years. It has been unnoticed until now – the foot and mouth disease.
Not to be confused with the farm animals’ ailment, this one has to do with big mouthed football and political bigwigs that put their foot in their mouths each time they are hoodwinked by the beautiful game.
The most recent and conspicuous patient of the deadly “pandemic” is Hugo Broos – the loud mouthed seven-decades-old Belgian pensioner who works as our men’s national senior team coach.
After a string of spectacular failures, not forgetting the embarrassing effort to appeal a Ghana match that got us booted out of the World Cup qualifier wagon, we became a world laughing stock. Fifa publicly, through the media, lectured Safa and its “world-renowned” coach on regulations governing football as if they were illustrating to primary school boys.
And there’s more. Ahead of the Ellis magnificence at the African championships, Broos, once again put his best foot in his mouth. He cried his lungs out about how South Africa was not producing “quality players” and how the level of the PSL was “not high enough”.
“We don’t have those players like our three last opponents, Ghana, France and Morocco, have. When you see those teams – Ghana, 90% of the players (play in) from Europe. France, I don’t have to explain which players are playing in the team of France, all players are in big teams in Europe,” he bemoaned.
His list of complains was so long it only lacked the absurdities of the “white witch doctor” – one Philippe Troussier.
With an astonished nation, of course he was forced to eat humble pie instead of his foot. With an uncooked egg on his face, he offered an apology.
Then there was Sports Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa who appears to have his foot permanently in his mouth. He found himself at loggerheads with media personalities. I cannot decipher why, but he tweeted a congratulatory note to Banyana.
Correctly so, media personalities Bonang Matheba and Pearl Thusi lambasted Mthethwa for not offering more than empty words to the poorly paid ladies.
Women’s football is not professional in this country – these ladies basically play for free, coupled with the fact that Mthethwa has a R22 million to spare from a failed flag project. I think the minister can still do better to up the ladies game than heaping empty congratulations.
But there is an even bigger foot. It is the biggest nonsensical and sexist foot to enter any foul mouth.
Shortly after the Wafcon, Safa proudly announced that it would be paying players R400,000 each for winning the Women’s African Cup of Nations. In 2019 the same organisation paid the men’s team R520,000 for reaching the quarterfinals. They were promised R920,000 each if they brought the cup home.
Like the president’s expensive cows, the men’s Ankole team has no proven return on investment. This makes the call for an equal pay for Ellis’s team with Bafana an insult to the champions. Pay our girls more, they deserve it.

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