WORLD CUP DESK: Sasol League and Hollywoodbets Super League crucial in Banyana Banyana’s success

The SAFA Girls Soccer Academy, based at the High Performance Centre (HPC) at the University of Pretoria, was instrumental in kickstarting the development process of 11 players in the current Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana squad that is in New Zealand ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

But during that preparation phase early on in their careers, these players needed a place they could call home and hone their skills in a competitive and structured manner.

This led to what was to be a long and fruitful partnership between the South African Football Association (SAFA) and Sasol in 2009.

The two parties launched the all-new Sasol League across the nine provinces of the country –  16 teams in each province – providing an opportunity to over 3600 female footballers to showcase their talent in regular and structured competition.

Furthermore, the aim for the formation of the league was also to broaden the pool for the various women’s national teams – U17, U20 and Banyana Banyana.

It didn’t take long for the partnership to bear fruit – with South Africa qualifying for the 2010 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago, under the mentorship of coach Solly Luvhengo.

The squad featured current Banyana Banyana players Nomvula Kgoale, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Robyn Moodaly and Kaylin Swart.

Three years after signing on the dotted lines, Sasol witnessed the Senior Women’s National Team book their ticket to their first ever Olympic Games in London in 2012, led by coach Joseph Mkhonza – 15 players in the final squad were registered in the Sasol League, while three played abroad.

Under the tutelage of head coach Vera Pauw from the Netherlands, the Banyana Banyana followed up that success by securing their spot at the same tournament, but this time in Rio, Brazil four years later (2016).

From the 18 players called up for the global competition, only four of them were on the books of overseas clubs, with the remainder running out in the Sasol League.

Despite their amateur status, the league would continue to produce great outcomes, with South Africa qualifying for their maiden FIFA Women’s World in France in 2019, with former Banyana Banyana captain Desiree Ellis at the helm – not forgetting several CAF African Women Championships they took part in around the continent.

For their historic FIFA Women’s World Cup participation, Ellis selected six players based abroad, while 15 played were from Sasol League and two were unattached.

“Grassroots development remains the cornerstone of the Sasol League. The passion for unearthing the next generation of superstars drives the league forward so that more and more female footballers can get the opportunity to showcase their talent. Our aim has always been to grow women’s football, and we are excited that we are on the right track with what we set out to do back in 2009. This has been a long and difficult journey, but also rewarding at the same time – it was all worth it. While we never knew this would take us to such heights in terms of achievement, we always believed that an investment of this magnitude was necessary, and today we can look back with pride to a relationship that started 14 years – taking us to two Olympic Games, a FIFA Women’s World Cup and many other achievements along the way,” said Nozipho Mbatha, Sasol Group Brand Marketing Manager.

“We would also like to congratulate all the players that have kept the vision going and growing, because they also played a key role when an opportunity was presented to them – and this is exactly what we mean when we say we are #limitless and we will always strive to #LiveTheImpossible.”

For the 2022 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco South Africa was represented by eight players spread across the world – Belarus, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Portugal and Italy, while 15 were from the Hollywoodbets Super League, which was barely three years in existence.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate all of the players who were part of the training camp and the final squad chosen to represent the country. It’s definitely a proud moment knowing that the majority percentage of the players come for the Hollywoodbets Super League. The aim of the league is to expose players for such national call ups and continue to maintain a competitive league,” said Indira Albuquerque, Senior Football Sponsorship Coordinator, a former Sasol League player with JVW.

“It means that what’s being done is heading in a positive direction. We also can’t forget other leagues who have been involved in the women’s game for years such as the SASOL League, who played a pinnacle part for women players and Banyana Banyana. We hope that the Hollywoodbets League can continue growing in strength and really continue exposing the talent around South Africa. Goodluck to all the players and supporting staff!  We are behind you all.”

A year later (2023), the South African elite women’s football league is the leading supplier of players to the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana squad that will contest the biggest stage of world football – 16 players in total, with six based overseas and only one unattached.

“As the Association, we will forever be grateful for all support we get from these two partnerships. Women’s football is on the upward trajectory around the world, and without the Sasol League and the Hollywoodbets Super League, we would have been left behind,” said SAFA CEO, Lydia Monyepao, a former Banyana Banyana player and Team Manager.

“Yes, we are not where we want to be, but there has been a lot progress from back in the day when women’s football was frowned upon. We are eternally pleased that we have partners that are on the same page with us, and that is why we have managed to reach these milestones – thank you Sasol and thank you Hollywoodbets.”

Hollywoodbets Super League three-time champions and log leaders, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, provide the biggest number of players in the final squad 23-member squad that is already in New Zealand with six in total.

They are closely followed by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) with just two less, while JVW has three players on the final list.

Royal AM, TS Galaxy Queens and the University of Pretoria (Tuks Ladies) have contributed one player each.

6 – Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies:

  • Andile Dlamini
  • Bambanani Mbane
  • Lebohang Ramalepe
  • Karabo Dhlamini
  • Melinda Kgadiete
  • Tiisetso Makhubela

4 – University of the Western Cape (UWC):

  • Bongeka Gamede
  • Kholosa Biyana
  • Fikile Magama
  • Sibulele Holweni

3 – JVW

  • Kaylin Swart
  • Robyn Moodaly
  • Gabriela Salgado

1 – Royal AM:

  • Kebotseng Moletsane

1 – TS Galaxy Queens:

  • Nomvula Kgoale

1 – University of Pretoria

  • Wendy Shongwe

Only four players in the current World Cup-bound squad – Linda Motlhalo (2018 – USA), Thembi Kgatlana (2018 – USA), Jermaine Seoposenwe (2019 – Lithuania) as well as Refiloe Jane (2018 – Australia) have never played in the Hollywoodbets Super League as they signed with overseas clubs before the formation of the elite women’s football league late in 2019.

But the roots of the quartet can be traced back to the Sasol League, where it all began.

By Matlhomola Morake

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