After a week of intense training and Spanish cultural immersion, South Africa’s U17 Women’s Team will wrap up their LaLiga-backed trip to Spain with a visit to Mestalla Stadium, the pride and joy of Valencia’s football-adoring public, and home to First Division team Valencia CF. The 55 000-capacity stadium has been ranked as the second greatest stadium in European football by Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper and has a long and proud history – dating back to 1923. The Stadium was even chosen as the national team’s group venue when Spain hosted the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
A tour of Mestalla Stadium will expose the South African U17s to the latest technologies associated with LaLiga matches, and which are helping to improve the game – for players, spectators and LaLiga Santander fans at home in 182 countries around the world. These innovative elements include, but are not limited to, the use of 4K-HDR cameras, whose crystal-clear footage allows home viewers to enjoy the atmosphere of the game as if they were in the stadium; tactical cameras which provide a live tactical view of play to the teams’ analysts (at the stadium and streamable elsewhere); and a high-definition, highly manoeuvrable Skycam that operates 21 metres above the field and offers spectators an unrivalled view of play.
This season, Mestalla also became only the fifth LaLiga ground to implement Intel True View, which allows for 360-degree replays, recreating the pitch in 3D for a more immersive “player POV” visual experience and greater clarity when making offside decisions.
After the stadium tour, the South African U17 Women’s Football Team departs Valencia. It is one final chance for the squad to reflect on what they have learned in Spain – a powerhouse country in terms of the women’s game. In the past five years, women’s football in Spain has grown as much as it did during the first 30 years of the local league’s existence. Players have benefited from greater skills development, support, visibility and opportunities. And LaLiga Santander is passionately behind this shift, with 25 of its 40 clubs now having a women’s division, and the league ensuring exposure for its women’s clubs through increasingly televised matches, and an overall drive for sponsorship.
Women’s football is the fastest-growing female sport, and LaLiga, in conjunction with SAFA, wants to see the same development in Spain take hold in South Africa, and the rest of Africa. Bantwana’s Spanish trip has been an excellent opportunity to solidify this ambition in South Africa. The experiences it provided for the national U17 squad should hold these talented young players in good stead during the upcoming FIFA Women’s Under-17 World Cup, and beyond.
Bantwana returns to South Africa on Friday, 28 September 2018 and lands at OR Tambo Airport at 07h25.