Johannesburg – The South Africa national senior women’s team, Banyana Banyana, have brought smiles back to the faces of a despondent fan base that two weeks ago saw the men’s side, Bafana Bafana, fail to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Banyana Banyana beat Zambia and Botswana in two recent FIFA-sanctioned friendlies in a show of why many call them the Queens of the South.
South Africa beat Botswana 2-0 at Wits University Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday, just three days after defeating Zambia 3-1 at the same venue.
Since Botswana was the team that knocked Banyana out of the 2022 Olympics, defeating them on Tuesday was of great significance to them.
“It was a fantastic game from my teammates and myself. We worked extremely hard and did everything that the coach said we must do. We pulled them to one side, considering that they were ball orientated and wanted to use the spaces,” said Banyana captain Andile Dlamini.
Banyana is using these friendlies as preparation for the COSAFA Women’s Championship and the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations qualifiers.
“We must challenge players to raise their game and make sure that they have not forgotten what happened in the past. The aim is always to win the game but we have missed so much football so we want to make sure that we are defensively well organised but most importantly convert our chances. We need to be better with our movements on and off the ball and that will be a great start to our preparations,” said coach Desiree Ellis.
After winning the COSAFA title on multiple occasions, Ellis says she is now targeting the ultimate prize: the continental crown.
In 2018, Banyana Banayana came close, finishing runners-up to rivals Nigeria in the final after a penalty shootout.
“Honestly, what we are focusing on is the bigger picture, taking baby steps and winning these friendlies. These friendlies are preparing us for the bigger picture, a picture which the coach and her technical team have drawn up for us,” added Dlamini.
The team only had three overseas-based players, Matlou, Kgatlana and Amanda Mthandi in camp for the two friendlies after the majority of clubs refused to release their players, citing COVID-19 travel protocols that include more than a week of self-isolation.
Lately the South African Football Association (SAFA) president Danny Jordaan has praised the women’s side for its dedication, amidst growing calls for equal pay for men and women in football across the world.