Banyana Banyana’s Wafcon victory will inspire a whole new generation

Banyana Banyana’s Wafcon victory will inspire a whole new generation
South Africa celebrate after winning the 2022 Women's Africa Cup of Nations final between Morocco and South Africa at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, Morocco, on 23 July 2022. (Photo: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix)

The SA women’s football team’s victory is far-reaching. It is a win for the entire South African population and for little girls who dream of one day playing in a fully professional South African women’s football league.

After finishing as bridesmaids on five previous occasions at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon), Banyana Banyana finally exorcised the ghosts of Wafcons past, nabbing the most prized possession in African football after seeing off hosts Morocco 2-1 in the final of the biennial spectacle on 23 July.

Striker Hildah Magaia scored twice, as South Africa’s footballing women claimed their first Wafcon title.

South Korea-based Magaia’s goals came in the space of eight minutes as she tapped home from close range in the 63rd minute and added a second in the 71st from a similar position.

Hildah Tholakele Magaia of South Africa celebrates a goal with teammates during the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations match between Nigeria and South Africa at Stade Prince Moulay Al Hassan, Rabat on 04 July 2022 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

A lapse of concentration saw South Africa give away possession to allow Morocco to pull a goal back in the 80th minute through their English-born striker Rosella Ayane.

It set up a nervy finish, which included nine minutes of added time, in front of a capacity crowd in the Moroccan capital Rabat.

However, even with tens of thousands of Moroccans cheering their nation on at the Moulay Abdellah stadium, SA’s hunger and drive to end their Wafcon drought saw them keep their calm and carry on to victory.

The win saw the South Africans become the second country, alongside Nigeria, to have their men’s and women’s teams crowned continental champions. The SA men famously won their only African title back in 1996.

Flawless journey

Banyana went through the tournament unbeaten, thumping favourites Nigeria, as well as Burundi and Botswana, to top Group C.

Tunisia and Zambia were the next victims in the quarters and semis, which saw the South Africans through to their sixth final.

Central (literally) to Banyana Banyana’s success was Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies goalkeeper Andile Dlamini.

On the rare occasion that the team’s defensive wall – which featured Dlamini’s clubmates Bambanani Mbane and Karabo Dhlamini – was breached, the experienced goalminder was alert to the danger.

Dlamini kept three clean sheets in the six games that Banyana played and won en route to their historic victory. Her efforts were rewarded when she walked away with the goalkeeper of the tournament award.

Financial relief

Coach Desiree Ellis has said that if female players could rely primarily on football as a source of income, the team’s performances would be much better.   

“It [having a professional league] would definitely close the gap,” she said.

“Having a professional league where players solely focus on football would really help. A lot of the players have full-time jobs, then they go to training. Some clubs train twice a week, some three times a week.”

Despite the lack of a professional domestic league, where the Banyana stars can be paid on a consistent basis for their hard work, they were awarded bonuses for their Wafcon victory.

South African Football Association president Danny Jordaan made a promise to reward the players with a R400,000 bonus each if they won Wafcon, a promise that was fulfilled.

The squad was also rewarded with R5.8-million from Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa on arrival back in South Africa.

Beyond the deserved financial reward, the team’s Wafcon win is far-reaching. It is a win for the entire South African population and for little girls who dream of one day playing in a fully professional South African women’s football league. It is also for the previous Banyana generations who laid the foundation for their historic success this year. DM168

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In the past, Daily Maverick journalists decided who they thought warranted the title of Person of the Year, but for the second year running, we have asked readers to vote for their preferred choice, with the proviso that we still have the final say. Choosing the annual winners is a labour of love because that’s what it takes to get a bunch of DM editors to decide whether they agree or disagree with the choices of 13,000 readers.  Over the next few days, we shall republish online all the results in various categories. – Heather Robertson, DM168 editor

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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