South Africa Women's National League: Goal speaks to La Liga director Pedro Malabia

Pedro Malabia - LaLiga Womens Football
We spoke with the official at the league's launch to talk about the role it will be playing in the country

La Liga director of women's football Pedro Malabia is excited South Africa finally has a professional women's league, which was officially launched at the headquarters of the South African Football Association (Safa) on Wednesday. 

The Women's National League will comprise of 12 teams from different provinces in the country, with the number of teams set to increase to 14 next season and to 16 in the next two years. 

Malabia described this as a historic moment, saying having a professional women's league is something South Africa has been missing.      

"I think it's a historical moment and the commitment and the work that Safa has done in order to create this National League was brilliant," Malabia told Goal

"I think this was one of the things they were missing. It's a great starting point. So, I think it's a starting point in order to grow women's football."

Asked about the impact La Liga has had on women's football in Spain, Malabia said: "Five years ago, La Liga decided to get actively involved in women's football. The clubs also asked La Liga to get involved and also to transfer some of the knowledge that's applied in men's football to women's football in order to make it grow.

"So, La Liga has been giving advice and knowledge. La Liga has also been developing strategies together with the clubs in terms of visibility.

"It is very important to increase visibility and to grow management structures of the clubs, and also to grow the product - to attract the interest of the fans, the media, and the sponsors."

Malabia admits there are challenges which come with running a women's football league, but he said eradicating those challenges starts with the commitment from all the stakeholders involved.   

"It all starts with the commitment of a person. If the person thinks La Liga should be involved then we should be helping," continued Malabia.   

"Of course, we face problems but the problems and challenges are there all over the world. Maybe South Africa is facing the same ones - our attitude has been, 'let's not complain and start to work' and I think with the right strategies and the hard work together with the clubs and the investors, we convinced everyone that they should take this path."

Safa Womens National League launch

Malabia also gave insight into the kind of relationship La Liga and Safa will have going forward, especially now that the first step - the launch of the National League - is complete.  

"Women's football is part of MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that Safa and La Liga signed in order to make football stronger - both men and women - in both countries," he revealed. 

"So, Safa was also interested in working on women's football. We will work within the next month on knowledge exchange, coaching education, management structures of the clubs and maybe with the players.

"So, everything that will be interesting for both Safa and LaLiga in making the Women's National League work because we are on the same boat."             

Malabia further clarified what this initiative means to South Africa as a country in terms of women's football.

"First of all, it gives the players a platform to compete at a higher level which will at least help the national team [Banyana Banyana]," he continued.

"It will allow the country to know there's a National League. I'm sure it will attract the interest of sponsors and broadcasters because we are creating something elite, and this will help those at the grassroots level to grow women's football. So, I think the National League will raise awareness." 

Malabia also doesn't believe the country should be scared of losing their top players abroad, saying some might want to come back and continue their professional careers in South Africa.   

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"We don't have to fear players playing abroad, not even in Spain. Spanish clubs on the men's side allow their players to play abroad," concluded Malabia.

"The thing is the players must have the best environment in order to grow because the nationality will remain - they will still be playing for Banyana Banyana.

"So, I think it will come naturally [for top players to return from abroad and play in South Africa]. If the league is developing and the players have got international experience, then this will help when they come back home because they will make the competition even bigger. So, it's good for everyone."