On Tuesday morning, OR Tambo International Airport was packed to capacity as South Africans made their way to the arrivals terminal to show their love for Banyana Banyana.
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South Africa’s senior women’s team made the country proud with their victory at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco.
This was the first time Banyana went all the way to winning a continental trophy as the team finished runners-up five times.
Banyana players were also generously rewarded at the airport, with the South African government handing out a check for R5.8 million on Tuesday.
In addition to the R9.2 million already pledged to Banyana by the Football Association of South Africa, the total amount paid to Banyana’s 23 players is R15 million, or about R652,000 each.
Wafcon’s victory brought back memories of the 1996 African Cup of Nations for Bafana Bafana, and Mark Williams, hero of the 1996 final against Tunisia, believes the victory is just the beginning of good things for women.
“Look, this is a huge achievement, it brought back memories of the 1996 Afcon. He united all the inhabitants of the country. You can see even today that everyone just came together and it’s all thanks to Banyan. We need to celebrate them and show them love,” Williams said.
“I only see big things going their own way. Let’s applaud them and give them the love they deserve. I just want to tell them that they need to know that there is a nation behind them. Women’s football is growing in the country and we need to make sure we support it. Let’s see more corporate companies come in and sponsor them because that’s what they need.”
Radio presenter Dineo Ranaka says the Banyana have proven themselves as nation builders with a victory that every South African is proud of. Ranaka says now is the time for women to get the recognition they deserve and they need to be paid the way the senior men’s team is paid.
“We need to fix this, the ladies deserve to be paid the same as Bafana Bafana players are paid. I mean, look what they’ve done, winning Wafcon is a huge achievement and we’re all proud of them. I just hope that the South African Football Association (Safa) will make a commitment to give them the money (they deserve it),” Ranaka said.