South Africa forced to call up 13-year-old for World Cup warm-up friendly against Botswana after first-team stars boycott game amid payment dispute

A 13-year-old girl was called up for a World Cup warm-up friendly against Botswana after South Africa's first-team stars boycotted the game over a dispute with the country's football association - as per AFP.

The Banyana Banyana will feature at the 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this month, but their final preparation match was far from ideal. Senior players were unhappy that the friendly was being played at a venue in the Tsakane township - 31 miles southeast of Johannesburg - on a pitch made of clay and grass.

Fearing the surface could cause injury just weeks ahead of the World Cup, they refused to play. Their decision forced coach Desiree Ellis to form a mish-mash squad of local players, including a 13-year-old. The Banyana ended up losing 5-0 to a Botswana side ranked 96 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings.

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The players are also calling on the South Africa Football Association (SAFA) to pay them for playing at the tournament. They say they will receive $30,000 each from FIFA for being at the World Cup, but nothing from the SAFA.

The Banyana reportedly refused to sign pre-tournament contracts, saying they wanted an additional $21,000 per player from the national association. When speaking to the City Press, a senior figure from the SAFA accused the players of behaving like "mercenaries" and "traitors" - as Yahoo Sports reports.

On the dispute, Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe, the president of the South African Football Players Union, said: "They are fighting for their rights. SAFA doesn’t want to include money in their contracts. We must fight for the rights of these players.”

South Africa will face Argentina, Italy and Olympic champions Sweden in Group D at the 2023 World Cup.