Give Banyana heroines what they deserve

Banyana Banyana star winger Thembi Kgatlana leads a celebration with her teammates after scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 semifinal win over Mali at Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana on November 27 2018.
Banyana Banyana star winger Thembi Kgatlana leads a celebration with her teammates after scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 semifinal win over Mali at Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana on November 27 2018.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

For some time now, Banyana Banyana have been the pride of SA. But this week's historic success at the Africa Women's Cup of Nations in Ghana deserves even louder plaudits.

The SA national team beat Mali 2-0 on Tuesday to ensure a first-ever passage to the World Cup, taking place in France next year.

Considering that Banyana found themselves in a tough group that included Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia, there were doubts initially as to whether they would even make it out the group, let alone to the final.

Not only have they confounded the sceptics, our ladies have set the bar so high that they go into the final on Saturday against Nigeria as firm favourites.

It's something that is unheard of - a South African team to face the big nemesis from west Africa as favourites.

This is because Banyana have undoubtedly been the most consistent team at the eight-team tournament in Ghana, unbeaten thus far and having scored the most goals. Crucially, they made a statement in their very first match, scoring a 1-0 win over the self-same Nigeria. Banyana have not looked back since.

We salute their courage to find positive results in the face of known inequalities prevalent in women's football. As it is, our girls have been promised paltry bonuses for qualifying for the World Cup (R160,000 per player).

We urge government and corporate SA to come on board and correct this, in the same way they did when some of our male teams reached some landmarks.

These women deserve to be feted and celebrated as true heroines of our nation.

We laud coach Desiree Ellis, who had to coach the team in an acting capacity for 10 months, proving her competence, before being offered a full-time contract by Safa. That she's South African, and a former Banyana captain during her playing days, makes this success even sweeter.

However, overall this was an excellent team effort by Banyana. Thembi Kgatlana may be the tournament's top scorer with five strikes, but goals have come from everywhere and captain Janine van Wyk has led with resilience.

We urge Banyana to complete the job in fine style on Saturday and make sure they bring the trophy back to SA!

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