[OPINION] Banyana Banyana: Let's back our girls
Banyana Banyana’s Fifa world ranking is 52. Bafana Bafana is 65. Women can play sport, they can play a “men’s sport” and what’s more, they’re better at it. There is little reason for the institution of patriarchy to deny their greatness and vindicate any reason to withhold support. Banyana Banyana, unlike their male counterparts, do not disappoint.
On Sunday, the national team was crowned the 2017 Cosafa Women’s Champions victors after beating the Zimbabwe women’s team (the Warriors) 2-1 in the final at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo. The Warriors, by the way, come in at 83 on the Fifa ranking leader board, with the men’s team trailing behind at 105th position. Banyana Banyana is not an anomaly when it comes to the success of women’s versus men’s football So, why isn’t the support for our women’s team as big as for the men’s?
Some would argue - and this argument stands - that women’s sport remains the property of a feminist issue. Like other feminist issues, they are less worthy and therefore constantly battling for equality. Not advantages. Just equality.
Just to make it doubly clear, we don’t want more, just the same. But because we’re deemed unworthy, women’s sports receives less coverage. Less coverage means there are fewer reasons to get excited about it. The coverage of men’s sports does not suffer from this disservice. They’re broadcast more, receive better quality traction and reporting and it’s easier to get excited about something that’s so blatantly hyped up. So really, in this instance, the media is to blame.
Then, of course, there’s the argument that women’s sport is just not interesting, because while the female of the species can play, they just aren’t as strong.
Supporters in defence of men’s games are constantly going on about the fact that a lack of equality exists because it is equivalent to the lack of equality physically. Science is real. Physiological differences exist. Men are stronger and, in some ways, faster, but does that make them better? In a physiologically level playing field, everything is relative anyway. So the aforementioned justification is a moot point really.
Banyana Banyana has only officially been recognised as an official team since 1993. That’s not a lot of time to get ahead of the pack. Yet, it’s taken the country a while to get behind the girls. And the lack of encouragement doesn’t stop at supporter level. There are still huge pay gaps when it comes to the salaries of sportswomen in general when compared to their male peers – not surprising, since the same struggle in literally any other profession is still ongoing.
At the end of the day, speed and strength do not necessarily equal quality. For evidence of this, see the statistical rankings I mentioned above. Men might score quicker, for example, but there is little display of skill outside the showmanship of testosterone. Women, go the distance.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a commentator on gender equality, sexuality, culture, race relations and feminism as well as ethics in the South African media environment.