Lauren Duncan, who leads off-the-field operations for the South African Women’s National team, spoke to Josh Bunting about her role and the rise of female football in her country.
Over recent years the rise of ‘Banyana Banyana’ has been phenomenal, as they became 2018 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations runners-up and reached last summer’s World Cup in France.
Lauren Duncan, for three years has been responsible for the off-field preparation and administration of the side and really is their true off-the-pitch hero.
Speaking on her adventure into football, Duncan explained: “My family were always involved in football, so I spent many days, nights and weekends at the field helping in tuckshop duties, officiating games, and coaching pee wees. I also started playing football at our local indoor facility, and joined a women’s team before finally playing in the highest league for women in the country (at the time), the semi-professional Sasol League.”
‘Banyana Banyana’ reached their first World Cup in 2019 and on her feelings and experience in France, Duncan said: “The World Cup was out of this world! The World Cup is the definitely the world showcase that everyone wants to be part of, especially if you work in the sport.
“It was an honour for me to be able to represent my country, especially at our debut appearance and it was such a memorable experience that I will forever be grateful for. Although for me it is much the same but of course on a much bigger scale, with regards to the administration side of things as we prepare for each match and tournament in similar ways.”
On what she does in her day to day role, Duncan said: “ADMINISTRATION…. Hahaha! I put emphasis on that word, because that is exactly what my day looks like.
“I am involved in the day to day running of the team, ensuring that all aspects are covered, from preparing the camps to finalising the camp at the end. These include transport, meals, kit, equipment, accommodation, etc.”
On how she got her role with the national team, Duncan explained: “I was involved in women’s football administration for many years and in 2015 I was appointed as the youth women’s team (U17 & U20) administrator, and in 2016 was appointed the team administrator for the senior team.”
Duncan is certainly the off-field driving force for the female game in the country and she said: “Women’s football in South Africa is definitely growing.
“School football has also taken off and club football has now finally reached a National League which is something that we as a country have been waiting for.
“Players should be able to access women’s clubs and development structures, but not to mention that we still have a lot of girls that actively play in boys teams.”
On her hopes for the future of South African women’s football, Duncan explained: “With the launch of the Women’s National League, my hope is that women in our country are able to play the sport as a chosen career and not have to juggle both working and playing football.
“Women’s football is of course one of the fastest growing sports currently and we see more girls playing now than ever before.
“I also hope that in the near future we have well established development centres for girls, which are easy to access no matter where they live.”
While advising young players: “If you have the opportunity, don’t give it up”, she also highlighted behind-the-scenes occupations, saying: “There are more women that are now working in football, so it is definitely more encouraging now than ever before. There are so many different roles which women can take up, and with the rise of women’s football it is great to see more women involved.”