WOMEN’S AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS
Sundowns star Bambanani Mbane’s stocks continue to rise after Wafcon success
When she was raising Banyan Banyana defender Bambanani Mbane as a single mother in rural Eastern Cape, her mother Nancy Mbane never imagined her daughter would scale the heights she has.
Prior to Banyana’s Banyana’s triumphant trip in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies and South African centre-back Bambanani Mbane shared with Daily Maverick that she has an insatiable appetite for winning.
“I’m the type of player who wants to win every competition I participate in. Winning motivates me. The more I win, the hungrier I am to win even more,” she said then.
Her hunger helped her feast on opposition forwards at Wafcon 2022, halting almost every attacking threat whenever Banyana Banyana were under siege. When Mbane wasn’t being ice-cool in defence, the Sterkspruit, Eastern Cape native was displaying her passing prowess.
Her eye for key passes from her half regularly allowed the likes of Jermaine Seoponsenwe, Noxolo Cesane and in the final versus hosts Morocco, Hildah Magaia, to use their pace and capitalise on the counterattack on the way to Banyana’s Wafcon win.
It is this type of brilliance that saw the reigning South African Football Journalists’ Association’s reigning female footballer of the year included in the official team of the tournament after Banyana had sealed their maiden African crown, after falling at the final hurdle on five previous occasions.
On the 2022 Wafcon’s ultimate team, she was joined by Sundowns teammate and goalkeeper of the tournament — Andile Dlamini. Banyana co-captain and AC Milan midfielder Refiloe Jane also featured, as did the dangerous Seoposenwe.
The 32-year-old no-nonsense defender was just as integral when Sundowns won the inaugural Caf Women’s Champions League in 2021 — adding another feather to her brimming cap.
She was named in the ultimate team of that tournament as well. Underlining her status as one of the best footballers in South Africa currently.
However, it was not always rosy for Mbane and her family in rural Sterkspruit. As her mother Nancy Mbane shared with Daily Maverick during the team’s homecoming at OR Tambo International Airport.
“I’m so overjoyed at this moment. Bambanani and I have come a long way together. I never imagined she would reach the heights she has reached… It was not easy. But through the grace of God, I was able to raise four children, as a single mother,” Mbane senior said.
The 53-year-old had her doubts when her daughter first expressed an interest in playing football.
“Firstly, women’s soccer was never taken this seriously in the past. Even when she told me that she wanted to play soccer, I told her: ‘but that’s a male sport.’ Even though I had also previously played it in our village. Because of the fact that there was no exposure where I was, I ended up having to choose a different career path,” shared Mbane’s mother.
After completing her matric, Mbane went to the Free State to pursue her tertiary studies. This was where she joined Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies, after undergoing a trial period. That was in 2010.
Since then, her stocks have risen significantly and she has grown to become one of national team coach Desiree Ellis’ most trusted soldiers since making her international debut in 2016.
“When Bambanani went to tertiary, she insisted on continuing to play football, because it is something she loves. Now it has brought her to this point in her life. She has even travelled all over the world because of football. It fills me with joy,” added Mbane senior.
The Sundowns star will undoubtedly be one of the first names on Ellis’ 2023 Fifa World Cup list. If picked to play, she will once again leave her blood and sweat on the field — this in addition to making her mark on opposition attackers, as she has always done. DM