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

DRUM - - Contents - BY THOLAKELE MNGANGA

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.

HIS­TORIC ACHIEVE­MENT

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.”

HARD WORK

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.”

OVER­SEAS EX­PO­SURE

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’S ROLE

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.

WIDER IN­VEST­MENT

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.

DE­SIREE EL­LIS

AMANDA DLAMINI

Banyana Banyana are go­ing to France to com­pete at the 2019 Fifa World Cup af­ter a suc­cess­ful African Women Cup of Nations cam­paign.

VERA PAUW

JA­NINE VAN WYK

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