'We've worked hard to reach this stage,' says Sundowns Ladies star Thusi
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies are oozing confidence ahead of their semifinal of the inaugural edition of the Caf Women’s Champions League against Equatorial Guinea’s Malabo Kings in Cairo on Monday evening.
Banyana Ba Style qualified for the semis as Group B winners after 1-0 wins over Kenya’s Vihiga Queens and Rivers Angels from Nigeria in their opening two group matches last week and a goalless draw against Morocco’s ASFAR on Friday.
The Sundowns Ladies go into their historic semifinal clash against Group A runners-up Malabo Kings at the El Salam Stadium as the only team that has not conceded a goal.
Kings scraped through with a win, a defeat and a draw in their group, but Sundowns captain Zanele Nhlapho, who scored the winner against Rivers Angels, said the central Africans should not be taken lightly.
Banyana Ba Style went to Egypt on the back of a solid defensive display that has seen them concede 11 goals in 22 games as they romped to the Hollywoodbets Super League title with Nhlapho as a vital cog in the team’s rearguard.
“I am happy with the performance of the team and the way we played so far especially defensively as we did not concede a goal,” said Nhlapho, who started playing for Sundowns in 2007.
“The way the girls are working hard at training and during matches I am very proud of them and us as a team.”
Bongiwe Thusi, the midfielder who was discovered in Thembisa and is in her 11th year with Sundowns Ladies, said the team deserves to be in the last four of the first edition of Africa’s premier continental club competition.
“It means a lot to us to qualify for the semis and I am glad we managed to fight as a team to get through,” said Thusi.
“We have worked very hard to reach this tournament and we would have been distraught if we did not manage to qualify for the semifinal stages.”
Rhoda Mulaudzi, the Limpopo-born star who has had stints in Australia, Cyprus, Belarus before returning home, is a deadly striker that Malabo Kings will have to watch closely.
Mulaudzi said it is a privilege for her and the girls to play on Africa’s biggest stage.
“It is an honour for us as players to have made history and reached the semis of the first Caf Women’s Champions League,” said Mulaudzi, the 32-year-old who has been rattling nets for over a decade.
“At this level you are playing against the best who have also dominated their regions, from Morocco and Egypt, and it is an experience that will put us in a good stead going forward.
“At this level, especially the north Africans, they knock the ball around and their style or more or less similar to the European style of playing football.”
Sundowns coach Jerry Tshabalala said he is proud of what his technical team has achieved so far.
“It is an exciting feeling. As a coach you should be proud and give yourself a pat on the back and say 'look I have conquered Cosafa and here is another chance for me to conquer the whole continent’,” said Tshabalala.
“But it is not only me. It is the entire team. I can’t do it alone because football is a team sport.
“I have got people who are working hard behind the scenes with me.
“And so it is very exciting to see ourselves in the semifinals of the first edition of the Caf Women’s Champions League.”
Morocco’s ASFAR will battle it out against Ghana’s Hasaacas Ladies, who finished as Group A winners, in the other semifinal matchup in Cairo.
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