The Varsity Women’s Football tournament has gone from strength to strength since 2013.
That year, only four women’s teams participated in Varsity Football, with their matches being played as curtain-raisers to the men’s semi-finals and final.
The women’s tournament took place even though sponsors had only signed on for the men’s tournament, with part of the men’s event budget being used to fund the women’s event.
While this remains the case today, the women’s tournament has increased from four to eight teams with travelling squads of up to 28 players and management members.
While no women’s matches were televised initially, this year saw six women’s group-stage matches broadcast live on SuperSport. The women’s final on Monday will also be televised (17:00, SuperSport Variety 4, DStv channel 209).
Since 2016, the eight participating women’s teams have been split into two groups of four. Each team plays against the other teams in their group, with the top two teams in each group progressing to the semi-finals.
Varsity Sports’ ultimate goal is to develop the women’s tournament into a standalone tournament that is commercially self-sustaining.
To achieve this, the tournament has been structured to create as much competition as possible. Instead of teams playing one group match at a venue and then going home, they remain at the venue and play another two rounds of group matches on one day. All stakeholders, including the universities, have bought into this format.
More televised matches has increased public interest in the tournament, which would have moved from Potchefstroom to Johannesburg in 2020 if not for the Covid-19 pandemic halting all sport in South Africa.
‘Many Varsity Football players have gone on to play in the Hollywoodbets Super League and for Banyana Banyana,’ says UJ coach and former TUT boss Anna Monate. ‘The tournament has helped to develop players and done so much for South African women’s football in general.
‘The quality of football has also improved since 2013,’ she adds. ‘Most of the universities now scout for talent at schools and club level, and those players end up in Varsity Football.
‘The tournament has grown a lot and will continue to do so, and hopefully we can reach a point where the women’s format is similar to the men’s.’
UWC coach Thinasonke Mbuli says playing in three tournaments a year – Varsity Football, the Super League and the USSA tournament – is a bragging right for the university as it means they can offer players more game time.
‘Varsity Football is great for developing players as it is a tournament for those under the age of 25 and many first-year students take part in it,’ she adds. ‘Many of our players have gone on to play professional club football and for Banyana Bayana after representing us in Varsity Football.’
– Don’t miss the Varsity Football women’s final between UWC and Tuks on Monday! Kick-off is at 17:00 (SuperSport Variety 4, channel 209).
Photo: Catherine Kotze/Varsity Sports