THE saying goes "if you want to get something done, let a woman do it”. Many may still be firm in their belief that women do not belong on a football field, but they (women) have proved time and time again that they have an equal stake in the game to their male counterparts.
The national women’s team, Banyana, are on the verge of attaining a milestone when they head to their first Olympic Games in July – a feat the nation ought to be proud of.
The side have come a long way since playing their debut match against Swaziland in 1993. When this side take on Zambia in an African Women’s Championship – the women’s version of the African Cup of Nations – qualifier on Saturday, it will be four days to the 19th anniversary of the national women’s team’s first competitive game (May 30).
All those years ago, their game was not taken seriously.
One of the players in that 1993 squad, Desiree Ellis, who would become captain, had a day job mixing spices at a butchery in Cape Town and only played football part-time.
Once, her club travelled to play a game on a weekend and she promised her bosses she would be back in time for work. What do you know, the vehicle the team had been travelling in broke down. She did not make it to work on time, and she was fired.
That was the sort of sacrifice made by those who were there when the road travelled by Banyana began.
The incident is one Ellis does not regret, as she went on to play an integral part in the building and growth of women’s football in the country.
Current Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza and captain Amanda Dlamini recently told me that reaching the Olympics was not the finish line of what they had in mind for the national women’s team.
Doing well at the Games is just one aspect of their vision.
Another is qualification for the African Women’s Championship, where the side dream of conquering the continent – something they have yet to do in their journey.
Banyana’s best finishes in the competition came in 1995 and 2008 – as runners-up.
Banyana are yet to take part in a Women’s World Cup competition – which is also in their sights.
But Banyana’s other main goals transcend the playing field.
Mkhonza and Dlamini agreed that their priorities were to win the hearts of South Africans, the trust and backing of sponsors and for women’s football to be taken seriously in this country.
"We want to make the country proud; put women’s football and South Africa on the map,” a passionate Dlamini said.
What more do our footballing heroines need to do to get support from their fellow countrymen?
With the confidence the side have ahead of the Games, they can cause a few upsets when they take on some of the most formidable teams in women’s football.
And with the winning mentality they currently possess, they can be crowned the queens of African football.
Armed with determination and a hunger to succeed, Banyana could be on the cusp of reaching their maiden World Cup.
Must they first achieve all this before they are held in high esteem in their own country?
Meanwhile, their underperforming male counterparts, Bafana, continue to be regarded as national heroes despite their woeful track record.
I, for one, believe Banyana have nothing more to prove. They have already done their country proud!