The former Safa technical director – who has played every role in the national team, from that of player, team manager and coach – calls on corporates to sponsor women’s football.
Fran Hilton-Smith never thought that the sport she loves would put her life in harm’s way. But it did. Fortunately, that did not deter her from working hard to ensure women’s football in South Africa grows into one of the most supported women’s sports in the country.
The former drummer and bass guitarist of Basadi Women of Jazz was bitten by the football bug when she was a little girl growing up in Germiston, on the East Rand. “Franzo” started her playing days as a goalkeeper, for that was the only position the boys she played with allowed her to occupy.
“Slowly I started playing, getting onto the field and developing my talent,” she said.
At 17, she and a couple of friends formed a women’s football team that would play at the Germiston Callies Stadium. This opened the door for her to get selected in an Eastern Transvaal team that competed against other regions.
As a talented left footer, she was part of the Eastern Transvaal side for a decade. South Africa’s exclusion from the international arena shattered her dreams of representing the country at the highest level. But the lack of women’s coaches at the time gave her a new dream.
“I decided to get into coaching which was very difficult,” she said. “I was the only woman then with some of the big boys who were getting into coaching like Shakes Mashaba, Trott Moloto and all the big guys. They were a little apprehensive but I wasn’t going to give up. I pushed my way up to a CAF high level course.”
Hilton-Smith was at the forefront when Banyana Banyana was established. She managed and coached the team in 2000 and made sure that players had what they needed.
Durban Ladies owner and one of the longest serving women’s football administrators in South Africa, Mary-Jane Sokhela, says Hilton-Smith has given a lot to the game in this country and in the continent. When Hilton-Smith was president of the South African Women’s Football Association (Sawfa) Sokhela was the vice president. They go back a long way.
This article was initially published at newframe