The SA Women’s U-20 team defending their Region 5 Youth Games crown in Botswana last weekend capped what has been a great year for local women’s football, writes Daniel Mothowagae.
Just as the country was still captivated by Banyana Banyana’s maiden qualification for the Fifa Women’s World Cup, the SA Under-20s ended the year retaining the Region 5 Youth Games in Botswana last weekend.
With this achievement, Basetsana coach Jabulile Baloyi emulated the feat of other former Banyana players-turned-coaches Desiree Ellis and Simphiwe Dludlu, who steered their respective teams to successes this season.
Bantwana set the ball rolling
The year kicked off with Dludlu guiding the Under-17 side to their second Fifa World Cup qualification when Bantwana sealed their spot at the global championships with a 6-1 aggregate win over Morocco in February.
The only downside for Dludlu’s team was their first-round elimination at the tournament staged in Uruguay from late last month until December 1. South Africa bowed out with a draw and two defeats in a group that included Japan, Mexico and Brazil.
Banyana clinch historic Fifa ticket
While Bafana Bafana were busy labouring to disappointing results in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers, Banyana gave the country a reason to celebrate when coach Ellis’ team defended the Cosafa Cup in September.
Refiloe Jane’s brace in the 2-1 win over Cameroon in the final in Port Elizabeth set the tone for Banyana, who went on an unbeaten run in regulation time at the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. South Africa finished as runners-up to rivals Nigeria at the continental championships held in Ghana.
The penalty defeat to the Falcons in the final did not take away the fact that Banyana had already clinched their maiden ticket to a Fifa World Cup.
ON POINT Simphiwe Dludlu is another former Banyana player who is steadily showcasing her qualities as head coach
South Africa will represent the continent with Nigeria and Cameroon at the global spectacle in France from June 7 to July 7.
Safa has already confirmed no fewer than seven matches against international opposition for Banyana’s preparation for the World Cup.
Former Banyana captain Portia Modise has been chosen by Fifa as one of the France 2019 World Cup ambassadors.
The rise and rise of Kgatlana
Since the retirement of the legendary Modise, South African women’s football has been blessed with Thembi Kgatlana.
The 22-year-old again proved on the biggest stage – at the Women’s African Cup of Nations – she is a star in the making.
STAR PLAYER Thembi Kgatlana is destined for greatness
Kgatlana’s breathtaking speed, skills and technique on the ball puts some of her male counterparts to shame.
The player from Randfontein in the West Rand turned profes-sional this year when she joined US side Houston Dash from the University of Western Cape in February.
Kgatlana is guided in the National Women’s Soccer League by former Banyana coach Vera Pauw.
The player, nicknamed “Pikinini” for her tiny frame, was named the best player and also walked away with the top scorers award after her five goals helped Banyana to the Afcon final.
Kgatlana’s national team-mates Jane and Rhoda Mulaudzi also earned contracts at Canberra United in August, becoming the first locals to play for Australian women’s top-flight league.
Recognition from CAF
Although there is no South African nominee in the men’s category for the CAF Awards, Banyana’s exploits this year did not go unnoticed.
Banyana has been nominated for CAF’s team of the year for the second year running, with Kgatlana and Janine van Wyk (player of the year) and Ellis (coach of the year). The awards will take place in Dakar, Senegal, on January 8.
Where to from here?
All eyes are now on Safa vice-president Ria Ledwaba and Emma Hendricks to ensure the planned women’s professional league is established next year.
The professional women’s structure is long overdue and this could be the only way of taking the women’s game to another level.