16 September 2019 – The South African Football Association (SAFA) has launched a WhatsApp chat service to make amateur football more accessible, transparent and free of cheating. A first of its kind in global sports, this service is set to be a game-changer for South African football players, administrators, fans and all other stakeholders.
The announcement comes on the back of the successful rollout of the MYSAFA Player Registration system, which now boasts 300 000 players.
“Amateur football is run through WhatsApp already,” explained SAFA Acting CEO, Russell Paul. “Across the country, players and coaches use WhatsApp to communicate their training and match information. By connecting MYSAFA, we’re giving them more access and control”.
“With the growth of MYSAFA and its new connection to WhatsApp, the Association is no longer just following global sport innovations, we are driving them”, added SAFA President Danny Jordaan
In 2017, SAFA and their technology partner Inqaku launched MYSAFA to assist with the administration of the sport, fight various forms of cheating and lay the foundation for data-driven talent identification across the country. 10% of the estimated number of amateur footballers in SA are registered on MYSAFA, with the total increasing daily.
Besides registering players, 1,100 fixtures are published and their results updated on MYSAFA every week – making it the most used team sports administration platform in Africa.
“Each player registered on MYSAFA is issued with digital and physical identity cards and a FIFA ID number. In the event that someone believes that an ID card has been forged or faked, the coaches and fans will soon be able to use WhatsApp to check,” says Jason Anderson, head of the MYSAFA project. “We are phasing out our existing card verifier app and offering the same feature on WhatsApp. Not requiring an app download (apart from WhatsApp) means card verification will be available to thousands more coaches and match officials. It could even lead to phasing out plastic cards altogether one day.”
Starting in Nelson Mandela Bay, players will be able to use WhatsApp to check their fixtures, results and league logs. Other content and rewards will soon follow
In partnership with Action Sports, a local sports retailer in PE, regional men’s league players in Nelson Mandela Bay will be the first to receive MYSAFA PRO cards. Players keep these personalised and branded cards with their FIFA and MYSAFA ID numbers. Once a player receives his or her MYSAFA PRO card they will be able to register on WhatsApp to access MYSAFA content – including a store locator for Action Sports.
Following the pilot in Nelson Mandela Bay, MYSAFA PRO cards will be made available to players and coaches in other areas and leagues. These players will also be able to give their family, friends and fans access to follow their fixtures, results and stats
“We have always said that our ambition with MYSAFA was not just to reach players, but to connect and engage with the entire football community in SA. That means every parent, brother, grandmother, friend and fan of every amateur footballer,” explained Jordaan. “We are excited about our WhatsApp integration as it is the key to making that dream a reality.”
Future services to be included in MYSAFA WhatsApp are player registrations, crowd-sourced results and commentary, insurance benefits and cover, field and match locators, team chat and the ability to purchase kit, balls and other football products. The MYSAFA PRO cards will also give players and coaches discounts at participating retailers.
“Once again we are thrilled to lead the way with another SAFA digital initiative,” said SAFA NMB President, Simphiwe Mkhangelwa. “I expect that every one of our players will be checking their fixtures and logs on at least a weekly basis.”
“Practically every person in Nelson Mandela Bay has a son, daughter, brother or friend playing in a SAFA League. Making our competition information available on WhatsApp will mean that the entire City will stay informed about what’s happening with our sport” Mr. Mkhangelwa added.
Image details: SAFA Cape Winelands Regional president, Mlungisi Busgwana (middle) with General Secretary, Linda Mase (left) and Treasurer General, Sivuyile Gqadu (right), using MYSAFA over WhatsApp at the SAFA 3rd division league regional playoffs this weekend. In the background are Sporting Stars FC (yellow) from Worcester and City Eleven Stars (black) from Ceres.