Banyana Banyana’s history-making run
After a stand-out year, Banyana Banyana are ready to tackle their first World Cup. DRUM takes a look at their road to success
IT WAS a powerful strike in a powerful moment and the cheers, tears and jubilation that followed fit the auspicious occasion. Thembi Kgatlana’s goal secured Banyana Banyana’s place in history, booking their well-deserved spot in next year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup. The goal in Banyana’s match against Mali also earned the team a 2- 0 victory and a spot in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) final where they were narrowly beaten by Nigeria in a 4-3 penalty shoot-out following a goalless game that went into extra time.
Coach Desiree Ellis praised her team saying “each and every one has played their part”.
Their place in the World Cup, which will be played in France, is a personal triumph for the coach, who formerly captained Banyana and whose victory is something her predecessors hadn’t managed to achieve. Her team, she said, played excellently in the Awcon tournament right off the bat and “they haven’t stopped being magnificent”. “They have stuck to the game plan and stayed true to what we do‚ which is putting the ball on the ground. It’s a wonderful victory for everyone in women’s football,” she told Business Day. “If people could see, my smile covers my whole face. [This] is a victory for the whole of SA‚ for the wonderful support they’ve given us throughout this tournament. “It’s for the coaches who have been here before. They have put a part into the team. And for players who aren’t here but have been part of the team through the year as well. “We thank God for this great opportunity. We are going to France and that’s what it’s about.”
Former Banyana midfielder and football analyst Amanda Dlamini (30) says the side’s success is their reward for the hard work they’ve put in in recent years. “It’s a life-changing opportunity”, she says, adding that former coach Vera Pauw (55) deserves credit for drumming into the team the importance of qualifying for an international competition. “Coach Vera would always say, ‘Guys, you need to qualify for the World Cup, you need to qualify for the Olympic Games because you have the possibility of changing your lives’.” Vera left a strong foundation for her successor, Dlamini says. “Coach Desiree has now done a fantastic job in terms of consistency and maintaining that work.”
After Vera moved to American team Houston Dash last year, she signed up three SA players – Thembi Kgatlana, Janine van Wyk and Linda Motlhalo.
This year has seen Refiloe Jane and Rhoda Mulaudzi also secure moves abroad, joining Australian side Canberra United.
Playing in professional leagues has boosted the standards of the national team, Dlamini says. “Players moving overseas has been the biggest influence for the kind of performances Banyana have displayed at Awcon,” she says.
Captain Janine van Wyk broke down in tears at the final whistle of the semifinal, as memories of the team’s past failures were banished. “For some of us it’s been a long time coming. We’ve been in this team for quite some time and missed out on numerous opportunities to qualify for a World Cup and here we are – still standing, still going strong,” said Janine, who joined the side in 2005. “We’ve done it, we’ve qualified for a World Cup and it’s the most amazing, amazing feeling. “It’s really emotional for me. If I start going into depth in thinking of what it took me to get here it really gives me a lump in my throat because it really wasn’t easy.” Dlamini hails the influence of the Banyana captain on the team. “She has been a pillar for Ban- yana Banyana, whether it’s communication-wise on the field or communication when it comes to negotiations for proper structures of incentives. “She’s also been a pioneer in addressing women’s footballing issues and she’s involved in grassroots development. She’s not just a player who is focused on her own career but wants to ensure that everyone around her is taken care of too,” Dlamini says.
The Sasol Women’s League, SA’s premier women’s football league, has allowed local players to develop their talent, Dlamini says.
And with Banyana flying SA’s football flag high, pressure is mounting on Safa to make good on their promise to launch a professional league next year.
Dlamini points to the importance of the Sasol League as well as the Varsity Women’s Football tournament, to ensuring Banyana’s long-term success.
Banyana Banyana are going to France to compete at the 2019 Fifa World Cup after a successful African Women Cup of Nations campaign.
JANINE VAN WYK