UPDATED: SAFA threaten to send Banyana Banyana players home

UPDATED: SAFA threaten to send Banyana Banyana players home

The stand-off between the South African Football Association (SAFA) and Banyana Banyana has taken another twist, with the football leadership alleged to have told players to go home.

This follows SABC Sport’s earlier report that the 2023 FIFA World Cup-bound team are refusing to play their send-off match against Botswana at Tsakane Stadium, which is scheduled for Sunday afternoon (15h00).

The players threatened to boycott the international friendly, demanding that a better and more suitable venue – preferably a 2010 FIFA World Cup stadium – as the match venue. 

The SAFA leadership are believed to have taken a hard stance to this demand from the players, insisting they honour the match or risk being sent home. 

It is also alleged a team of 20 players, who are not currently in camp, is being assembled to play against Botswana this afternoon, to save them from the embarrassment of a no-show.

Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Zizi Kodwa is also understood to have been roped in to save the situation, and he has already engaged the South African Football Players Union (SAFPU), pleading with them to convince the players to honour the game this afternoon.

However, SABC Sport has gathered that it appears impossible that the parties will find each other with just a few hours left before kick-off.

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis already selected her final 23-woman squad with three additional players on standby for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, for which they are scheduled to depart on Wednesday, 5 July.

SAFPU president Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe and his team engaged Banyana players and members of the support staff last Tuesday, and has given insight into the issues behind the impasse.

“The players said they want to discuss [issues] with [SAFA]. Firstly, there are conditions of employment and issues such as health and safety at Tsakane Stadium, where the pitch is not okay. We’ve raised this issue with them, and they said they will revert,” explained Gaoshubelwe. 

“Danny [Jordaan] then came to the camp on Friday and spoke to the team, asking them to share the issues they wanted resolved, and he promised to see them on Saturday but he never pitched. Little did they know, the ladies were resolute and we are in support of them.”

With only three weeks until the tournament kicks off, the players are said to be concerned about the risk of injuries if they are forced to play at Tsakane Stadium. 

The Premier Soccer League on two separate occasions this past season closed the venue to the Motsepe Foundation Championship clubs, deeming it not suitable for official matches. 

SABC Sport has also gathered that the team didn’t train on match day minus one at the stadium as it is a norm, and Gaoshubelwe revealed that Botswana also took issue with the venue. 

“So the ladies did not go to Tsakane because that pitch is unplayable, and it’s not within FIFA standards – no one should be playing in a bumpy pitch like that,” he added.

“The Botswana ladies that are supposed to play there, have themselves complained about that particular pitch and have threatened not to play.”

Furthermore, the public broadcaster has been reliably informed of some Hollywoodbets Super League teams that have turned down SAFA’s request for players this morning in support of the Banyana players.

SAFA is unavailable to comment at this stage as there is currently an urgent National Executive Council (NEC) meeting being held to deliberate on the issues.