It was emotional scenes after the final whistle of the second semi-final of the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations as Banyana Banyana confirmed their participation at the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.
Banyana Banyana secured their place with a 2-0 victory over Mali in Tuesday night’s semi-finals of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana, from which the top three countries qualify for France.
It has been a tournament to remember for the South Africans, becoming the only team in the competition thus far not to loose a match.
Their journey to compete with the best in the world began after the disappointment of 2014 in Namibia when they failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Four years later, it’s mission accomplished.
Banyana Banyana will play in the final of the Women’s AFCON against the same team they faced in their opening fixture of the tournament.
After suffering a defeat at the hands of South Africa, Nigeria bounced back – winning all three of their next matches to also reach the final.
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis was full of praise for everyone who had contributed to the team’s success over the years.
“It’s for the whole of the country, it’s for all the players and it’s for all the coaches. It’s for everyone that has played a part over the last many years because it’s not about now, it’s about everything. Most importantly it’s for our wonderful sponsor, Sasol, because they have been the driving force behind this team. They have given us all these opportunities, the Sasol League, where we can select these players from SAFA as well. We had a fantastic year of preparation,” says Ellis.
In 1998 South Africa’s senior men’s national team – Bafana Bafana played in their first ever Fifa World Cup in France. 20 years later their female counterparts, Banyana Banyana, have booked a spot for the global spectacle. It’s been a grueling tournament for the team. They had tough opposition, but their resilience carried them through.
For Ellis, the qualification was a moment she had been yearning for from her days as a player. She becomes part of the elite list of South African born coaches to qualify a national team to the world cup – which includes, Clive Barker, Solly Luvhengo, Thabo Senong, Molefi Ntseki and Simphiwe Dludlu.
Banyana Banyana will now look at making history once again in the same competition. Captain Janine Van Wyk hopes they can go all the way and win the gold medal in the Nations Cup. It will also be the first time that they win the continental show piece.
” We have to celebrate what we have accomplished off course, but we have another goal to achieve; and something that we are capable of doing is lifting that trophy and making history twice in one tournament. Yes a lot of people will say we beat them in the group stage but it will definitely not be the exact same game they will come out really strong to defend the title”
Banyana Banyana forward Jermaine Seposenwe says this achievement paves the way for young up and coming players to achieve more success with the national team.
“It’s been a hard journey for them – all struggles. They have gone through not qualifying year after year it can be demoralising. So when you regroup taking into consideration everything you have done in football before especially players like Janine, Mpumi it’s definitely something as a young player you would want to do for them.”
Thembi Kgatlana and Lebogang Ramalepe were the two goal scorers for Banyana Banyana – securing the two-nil win over Mali. Ramalepe’s strike will go down as one of the contenders for goal of the tournament.