We used to get paid R50 per day – Veronica Phewa

We used to get paid R50 per day – Veronica Phewa

Former Arsenal and Banyana Banyana player Veronica Phewa says sponsorships have helped Banyana Banyana improve their performance because they have resources.

Phewa started playing for Banyana at the age of 14 in 1993 when the team was assembled. She retired from the national team in 2010, before being recalled in 2014 by then-coach Vera Pauw for an international friendly against Ghana.

Phewa believes Banyana can reach the quarterfinals in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand from 20 July to 20 August 2023.

“Banyana has improved a lot, maybe because of the sponsorships that they have now. We used to get paid R50 a day. It was really tough for us back then but we did well because it was an honour to represent our country,” she said.

“I have no doubt that the girls will do well in the World Cup since most of them play in Europe. They won in Africa [Women’s Africa Cup of Nations]  so they can reach the quarterfinals in the World Cup.”

Phewa had a short stint with Arsenal in 2003 with her Banyana teammate, Portia Modise. Her flight to Arsenal was paid for by Bafana Bafana legend, Neil Tovey. She says her stay in Arsenal wasn’t pleasant as they were not getting paid.

“When we played there, I was in the first team and Bashini [Portia Modise] was in the B-team. They told us that we needed to contact the South African government regarding payments. It was hard to train because we were always hungry. Arsenal never paid us. Mam Rea Ledwaba even tried to get us sponsorship from brands so we could continue playing for them. They did however send us to Oakland College but we didn’t know that we were there for a college scholarship. So, I came back to South Africa.”

After leaving Arsenal, Phewa joined FC Indiana, ranked fifth in the world at the time, and says she had to work even harder. 

“Their football is different from ours, they run a lot. Plus, there was a lot of competition, they had players from Spain and Brazil. People who’ve had coaches from a very young age but I always used to make the starting 11. I grew up playing with boys so that made me strong, I think.”

The striker is currently unemployed having worked in retail after retirement. An experience she describes as mentally challenging and exhausting.

“I needed the money so I had to find a job. There was a lot of pressure from people who used to see me on TV, thinking that I had money. People even used to ask to take pictures with me at the shop. Obviously, I couldn’t say no but I was really depressed at that time. I even moved in with a friend, who paid for my D-license coaching course,” she explained.

Phewa says her goal is to start a development team in her township, KwaNyuswa and scout players for the National u17 girls’ team [Bantwana].

“I love children and I want to help introduce them to football. I believe they can have a better career than I did, financially. Women’s football is more professionalised now and they can travel the world and be great role models to their peers.”