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South Africa women called ‘mercenaries, traitors’ amid boycott

The South Africa Women’s World Cup team were called “mercenaries” and “traitors” on Sunday as they boycotted a warm-up against Botswana ahead of the global showpiece this month.

Banyana Banyana (The Girls) said the match venue in the Tsakane township, 50 kilometres (31 miles) southeast of Johannesburg, was unsuitable for international football.

They believed playing on a surface of clay and grass could lead to injuries, and rule them out of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand from July 20.

Banyana also wanted to play their final preparatory game before flying to Oceania at a more prestigious venue like Soccer City in Johannesburg or Orlando Stadium in Soweto.

Football officials called up players, including a 13-year-old, from a local league and delayed the kick-off by one hour before Botswana exploited inexperienced rivals to win 5-0.

The result against opponents ranked 96 places below South Africa was a major embarrassment as World Cup squad members said before the boycott that they wanted “stronger” opponents.

A senior South African Football Association (Safa) official, who requested anonymity, told the weekly City Press the players were behaving like “mercenaries” and “traitors”.

Apart from the venue and opposition, Banyana are unhappy with the financial arrangements ahead of the World Cup, where they will face Sweden, Argentina and Italy in Group G.

‘Players unreasonable’

According to the players, they will receive $30,000 each from FIFA for being at the World Cup, but nothing from Safa.

Banyana reacted by refusing to sign pre-tournament contracts, saying they wanted an additional $21,000 per player from the national association, according to reports.

Safa chief financial officer Gronie Hluyo said: “The players are being unreasonable in their demands.

“What FIFA has committed to giving them is way more than we have committed to any of the national teams previously, including Bafana Bafana (men’s senior national team).”

Hluyo said each player received 20,000 rand (then $1,500) for competing at the 2019 World Cup in France, where South Africa lost to Spain, China and Germany.

“What they are getting now is way more than that, but they are still not happy.” added the official.

The venue and bonus dramas came one week after reports of a chaotic function in Pretoria during which the World Cup squad was named.

Some political invitees did not turn up for an event screened live on public broadcaster SABC, the sound system malfunctioned, and stage screens remained blank.

Banyana are due to leave for New Zealand in two groups, on Wednesday and Thursday, and play Costa Rica in a final warm-up before tackling Sweden in Wellington on July 23.