CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s stunning 3-2 win over Italy at the Women’s World Cup on Wednesday sparked celebrations at home and won presidential praise on the eve of the country’s opening gambit in a bid to host the 2027 edition of the tournament.
The victory, a first for the side at a World Cup finals, sealed their passage into the round of 16 where they will face Netherlands on Sunday, and could also have longer-term implications for the development of the game in the country.
The squad have put behind them a pre-tournament row with the South African Football Association (SAFA) over bonuses and displayed a marked improvement from the team that lost all three games on their World Cup debut in France four years ago.
“Congratulations to Banyana Banyana on your victory against Italy and securing our spot in the final 16. You have lifted our spirits and made us immensely proud. Bring the cup home!” South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa said on the messaging platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
“This is a historic moment for South African football. This is a historic moment for women’s sport in the country,” added minister of sport Zizi Kodwa.
South Africa’s domestic women’s league is an amateur competition while its male equivalent is cash-rich with many players earning more than they would receive in several European nations.
It has been a thorny issue for SAFA, who have battled to attract significant corporate sponsorship to take the women’s league professional.
Wednesday’s win in Wellington highlights the potential of the game to deliver success.
“Professionalising the women’s league is in order. How many times should the national team continue to make history before the women’s game is taken seriously in our country?” said regular national captain Janine van Wyk, who has missed this year’s global finals through injury.
The win is also a timely boost for SAFA ahead of a meeting with officials from FIFA on Thursday in Sydney, where they will state their case as potential hosts of the World Cup in 2027.
“It is going to be critical for us to make the most compelling case for why the Women’s World Cup must be hosted in Africa for the very first time,” Bid Committee chairperson Tumi Dlamini said on Wednesday.
“There can be no better place than Africa for FIFA to demonstrate its commitment to women empowerment and transformation of the life of a girl child.”
South Africa are up against Brazil plus joint bids from Mexico and the United States, and Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.