Failure to reward female athletes has led to the demise of women's sports

 By Loveness Nyathi @lovie1988

AS we celebrate Women’s Month, most female sports practitioners are reflecting on how they continue to receive inequitable treatment on the sports arena. The glare has been clearer in the football field where male and female players’ remuneration is worlds’ apart and little investment is made into the women’s game.

While male footballers are given better recognition and salaries, female players at the same level are given a token for their efforts and the contrast can be seen in how the Mighty Warriors, Zimbabwe’s senior women national team was treated when they achieved the highest feat by qualifying for a national tournament.

Former Mighty Warriors coach, Shadreck Mlauzi said it was unfortunate that despite attaining international success by reaching the Rio Olympics that bunch of players was never adequately rewarded and things have spiraled for female players since then.

Mlauzi, who cut his teeth at Inline Academy, said when they qualified for the Olympics everyone was bragging about the achievement but little rewards came their way.

Strikes and complaints of nonpayment of camping, participation and bonus fees has been the norm for the Mighty Warriors over the years as Zifa failed to even secure transport money for the players and at one time in 2015 were dismissed after being given $20 transport money for those travelling outside Harare while those in Harare were given $5 each.

Mlauzi said failure by authorities to reward female talent has led to the demise of the game.

“Most players have left the sport disillusioned because they have not been rewarded for their efforts despite taking the country to where men’s football has never taken us. The treatment by Zifa was just disheartening.

“While men were being given better cash in terms of allowances and salaries, the females were just given crumbs. “Some left the game altogether while others are now in the diaspora and some migrated to South Africa to play soccer or work in other jobs,” he said.

It has been both the Government and corporate world that has let down the girl child as they have not come forward to reward them and have not sponsored women soccer teams.

It was only in 2013 when then diamond mining company, Marange Resources decided to sponsor the league that a little glitter came into women football as teams got uniforms, transport money and allowances for players but it was only for a year.

NetOne also sponsored a cup competition in 2014 but it was also short lived. Former vice chairlady of the Zimbabwe Women Football Committee, Cecilia Malunga said the game is in a sorry state and despite making efforts to get resources for the women’s game they found many doors shut.

Another classic case of marginalization of female footballers is the failure by Government to honour its promise of giving them housing stands following their qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations in 2016.

One of the female players who spoke on condition of anonymity said she is staying in the game for the love of the sport but is disheartened by the treatment they have received. “We were promised stands and we were so much looking forward to being rewarded but nothing has happened since then.

It is like Government was happy with our achievements and wanted to be seen to be giving us our dues but then it was just for the press and in reality nothing has been done for us. “If it had not been for the love of soccer I would have left the sport a long time ago,” she said.