South Africa’s Women’s World Cup preparations were plunged into chaos on Sunday when a shadow national team including a 13-year-old took on Botswana in a friendly as the squad selected for the finals were locked in a dispute with the national association.
The match was supposed to be a send-off for the squad going to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand before they continue their preparations outside the country.
But a dispute with the South Africa Football Association (SAFA) over bonus payments and their contracts for the tournament meant the World Cup-bound squad did not play.
Instead, a hastily put together side with no senior national team experience lost 5-0 in front of bemused fans at a packed Tsakane Stadium and a watching television audience.
South Africa coach Desiree Ellis acknowledged the tensions behind the scenes and said the national team would have to sit down with SAFA and “plot the way forward”.
SAFA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters, though the organisation’s football manager Mzwandile Maforvane confirmed the issues to the SABC.
“There are challenges that we have with regard to the team and I believe the governance structure of SAFA is dealing with those issues,” he said.
South Africa’s Minister of Sport Zizi Kodwa released a statement calling on the parties to find an amicable solution and said he would meet the country’s players’ union on Tuesday.
“I urge the team to be focused on the major task that lies ahead … I will be meeting with the South Africa Football Players’ Union on Tuesday to hear the serious concerns expressed by the team,” Kodwa said.
“The meeting will consider issues pertaining to the government’s commitment and support to the team, the team’s working, welfare and health conditions, including transparency and accountability related to the signing of contracts.”
South Africa are due to meet Costa Rica in a final warm-up game in Christchurch on July 15.
They have been drawn alongside Sweden, Italy and Argentina in Group G at the World Cup, which kicks off on July 20.
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