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After missing Wafcon, devastated Banyana star Salgado eyes World Cup

Gabriela Salgado during the Cosafa Women's Championship match against Mozambique at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on October 4 2021.
Gabriela Salgado during the Cosafa Women's Championship match against Mozambique at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on October 4 2021.
Image: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images

When Banyana Banyana midfield stalwart Gabriela Salgado ascended to the stage, an arm-sling supporting her fractured collarbone, she got a warm embrace and hugs from her teammates.

The SA women’s soccer team returned to a rapturous welcome at OR Tambo International Airport after winning the 2022 Women’s African Cup of Nations (Wafcon) with their 2-1 final win against hosts Morocco in Rabat on Saturday night.

“Gaby”, as she’s affectionately known, did not a cut a forlorn figure on the sidelines and wasn’t going to miss out on the big celebrations. She joined in on the dancing, and it did not matter she had missed the tournament in heartbreaking fashion, such is the camaraderie in Banyana. 

The midfield workhorse got injured just days before Banyana started their camp for the Nations Cup. The JVW midfielder fell and broke her collarbone while playing for her Hollywoodbets Super League club against Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies.

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis was forced to replace Salgado, calling up Rhoda Mulaudzi for the Morocco excursion.  

“Unfortunately I did not get a medal because I was not with the team, but the girls bringing the trophy home feels like a medal for myself and Thembi Kgatlana too, it means so much to the two of us,” Salgado said.

Star attacker Kgatlana had to return home with a ruptured Achilles tendon after the 1-0 win against Botswana in SA’s third group C game. 

“It’s a great feeling to see so many South Africans are now supporting us and they have been behind us all the way — it’s a very proud moment,” Salgado said.

“My recovery will start soon, and after a few months I’ll be playing. I will be back on the field doing my thing again.

“I want to thank SA for the support and rallying behind Banyana. To my teammates, they have done the country proud again.

“I was very hurt and disappointed, but this is football and these things happen. I just have to carry on from here, work hard and get back on the field.

“I had a lot of my teammates backing me up and supporting me, and I will be back much stronger. I missed out a lot and really missed being part of the squad, especially at such a big and important tournament.

“I got injured two days before the Wafcon camp. The doctor told me I would be out for two months and I wouldn’t be able to go with the team to Morocco. It was the most devastating news ever.

“It was very hard to accept what the doctor was telling me, but like I said I am in a good space and I am recovering well.”

Salgado also said she is now eyeing the 2023 Fifa World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. Banyana automatically qualified for the World Cup in July and August by reaching the Wafcon semifinals.

“The World Cup next year will be a good consolation for me, and I am happy that the girls managed to qualify. It gives me an opportunity for something that I can work hard for and to be part of it again.”