Banyana star Banyana Thembi Kgatlana has highlighted that they have put an additional feud with Safa behind them, and have shifted attention to the World Cup itself, even though they are not yet in “full agreement” with domestic football’s parent body.
“It was a difficult time for us that we faced before we left the country, but coming to the World Cup was something we always wanted to do,” Cgatlana said on Tuesday.
“Once we came to an agreement with the federation, not a full agreement, though, in terms of payments and bonuses, we were able to get to New Zealand and go and say ‘Hey, we’re here, we’ve worked hard to be here and let’s enjoy being here’. I’m very happy with the team’s progress after everything that’s happened.”
Baniana and Safa were at odds over World Cup bonuses, until a joint donation of R8 million from the Motsepe Foundation and the Ethoba National Lottery saved the situation in the eleventh hour to ensure the team left for Wellington two weeks early.
However, recent reports indicate that the Baniana players refused to sign the bonus contract until Safa committed that the support team would also receive bonuses. Cgatlana did not want to explain why they did not fully agree with Safa.
At the global event, which is being hosted by New Zealand and Australia, Banana is in Group G alongside Sweden, Italy and Argentina. SA will kick off their campaign by taking on Sweden at the Wellington Regional Stadium on Sunday (7am South African time).
New Zealand opens the tournament with a match against Norway on Thursday (9am South African time), while Australia will take on the Republic of Ireland at midday.
Cgatlana is unfazed by the fact that all of their pool rivals are ranked well above them globally, which draws motivation from Zambia, who stunned Germany 3-2 in a friendly two weeks ago. Germany ranks second in the FIFA rankings.
“If you look at our group, these teams are above us [Banyana are ranked 54th]. We have Sweden in third place and we have Argentina (28th) and Italy (16th).
“For me, it’s more about who wants it today. Ranking doesn’t mean much nowadays… We saw that day Zambia beat Germany, who are ranked second in the world. On that day, Zambia came and showed they wanted it more.”