27 August 2019 – The inaugural SAFA National Women’s League (SNWL) kicked off in style this past weekend to much fanfare and enthusiasm, as the twelve best Sasol League teams in the country strutted their stuff at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto.

Twenty-three goals were scored in a mere two days of action as the likes of Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies reminded everybody of their superb set of skills and overall prowess. Commentators, analysts and journalists hailed SAFA on keeping their promise to get the league off the ground.

With no relegation for two consecutive years and only promotion, the system is one that is designed to steadily grow the league.

SAFA Vice President Ria Ledwaba stated in 2018: “The system that will be employed will ensure that teams will have an opportunity to grow and stabilise. It is a positive system”.

The most vital aspect that should be taken from the past weekend’s action, however, is the importance of this national league and what it can do for women’s football in the country and indeed for South African football in general.

Such a league lays the platform for a number of benefits and advantages for women’s soccer in this country.

Firstly, it grants teams and indeed the regions and provinces that they hail from, the opportunity to be recognised both nationally and to an extent internationally, while also clearing the path to be recognised by national teams, at all levels.

A key issue is that women’s football does not gain the same attention, recognition, marketing and exposure that the men’s game enjoys. The national league solves this conundrum by shining the spotlight on talented females.

Secondly, such a league will by default spread the word on the women’s game and encourage aspiring young girls to take up the sport and reach the highest levels. It would show them that there is indeed a future in the sport if they are willing to work hard and put in the effort for an exciting alternative career path. It also offers a space for current players to grow in. It could be the big break that every top current player needs right now to reach their professional and personal goals.

These positives are merely the tip of the iceberg and the ripple effect of a national league shouldn’t be underestimated. Current Sasol club owners who fund teams with their own money will know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. All the effort and hard work put in by these coaches, players, administrators and match officials will be that much more recognised with the advent of such a league. The list goes on and on.

Even before the realization of this league, the success of South African national teams was already there for all to see, including a first ever world cup appearance by the senior team.

The female game is finally joining the elite echelons of their male counterparts and the powers-that-be should be lauded for turning this dream into a reality. The first season should be an interesting ride and the party has only just begun.

Dhirshan Gobind