JOHANNESBURG — As the African Cup of Nations prepares to kick off this weekend, some teams have courted controversy by allegedly saying they don’t want female fans attending because they’ll bring bad luck. Predictably, this has not gone over well with women.
A local South African newspaper cited an AFCON organizer who said that teams from Ghana, Congo, Mali and Niger complained. The organizer said some on the teams believe women bring bad luck and are associated with witchcraft.
VOA attempted to reach representatives of all four teams who allegedly made the comments. None of those attempts was successful.
Tournament organizers also have refused to comment on the report.
But South Africans are commenting on it.
"We do understand that different cultures and different countries across the continent have different beliefs. But here in South Africa, the rule of South African law needs to be respected and, I think it’s, I can say, it’s absurd to say that women are bad luck," Troy Martens, ruling African National Congress Women’s League spokeswoman said. "Here in South Africa, women are ardent soccer supporters and go to many of the games, and that’s never, ever been a case where a woman has been bad luck. So, as a South African woman, I can say it’s completely absurd and ridiculous. “
Amos Motaung teaches soccer to kids at the Yamampela Soccer Academy in Soweto, in the shadow of the stadium that will host the tournament's opening and final matches.
They’re planning to start girls’ teams soon. Motaung noted the success of South Africa’s women’s team, Banyana Banyana. That team, incidentally, is ranked fifth among African teams, according to FIFA. The men’s team is ranked 22nd.
Motaung disagrees that girls and women are bad for football. "No no, that’s not correct. Hey, if they’re bad luck … in the case of Banyana Banyana, what are they saying based on that ? So I don’t think girls in football is bad luck," he said. "For them to attend stadiums and so forth, no, it’s not bad luck. No, no, I disagree.”
South African police have said they’re ready for this tournament and have assured it will be safe when it begins on Saturday.