Banyana Banyana still set to travel to Turkey despite earthquake devastation

Banyana Banyana still set to travel to Turkey despite earthquake devastation
Banyana Banyana's Lizza Mokoena during the Cosafa Women's Championship semifinal against Namibia at Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Gqeberha on 9 September 2022. (Photo: Richard Huggard / Gallo Images)

As it stands, South Africa’s senior women’s soccer side is still scheduled to travel to Turkey for the Turkish Women’s Cup, despite the country still reeling from a deadly and destructive earthquake. However, this may change.

Banyana Banyana are continuing preparations for the Turkish Women’s Cup, where the South Africans are scheduled to clash with the host nation before taking on Uzbekistan three days later and rounding off their trip with a tie against Venezuela.

However, with the transcontinental country still reeling from the destruction of an earthquake – which struck in the early hours of Monday – and the loss of life, the Turkish Cup may be called off altogether. It is scheduled to be played between 13 and 23 February.

When announcing her tournament squad from the SABC studios in Auckland on Monday, Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis acknowledged that the natural disaster – which has to date claimed more than 5,000 lives – may curtail the tournament, and as a result, her side’s World Cup preparation plans.

“We are in contact with the embassy as well as the local organisers [in Turkey]. We can only continue with our preparations until we’re told otherwise; we’ll continue with that and get ready for the Turkish Cup,” Ellis said.

On Tuesday, South African Football Association (Safa) head of communication Mninawa Ntloko confirmed to Daily Maverick that at this juncture, there is no change in plans and that the squad is working on the assumption that the invitational mini-tournament will proceed as planned.

The search-and-rescue operation at the site of a collapsed building following the earthquake in Iskenderun, Hatay, Turkey, on 7 February 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Erden Sahin)

“There is no update from what the coach said at the press conference yesterday… The tournament is going ahead until we’ve been advised otherwise. As the coach said yesterday, she is continuing with her preparations, because we have not heard otherwise,” Ntloko said.

The competition is to take place in the city of Alanya, which has not been affected as heavily as other Turkish cities such as Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa and Adana. Though some minor tremors were reported in Alanya on Monday.

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The 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) winners last played a competitive match in October 2022, where they were thumped 4-1 by World Cup co-hosts Australia. As such, Ellis is desperate to use this international window period to continue sharpening her team as they prepare to play in just their second global spectacle.

South Africa is in a tricky group with Sweden, Argentina, plus Italy – and Ellis needs every possible opportunity to ensure her team is ready to compete and possibly pick up their first World Cup points come July, after losing all their games on debut back in 2019. 

Read in Daily Maverick:Banyana Banyana’s Wafcon victory will inspire a whole new generation

Read in Daily Maverick:Womandla: SA women’s sports teams chase glory 

Ellis said in her press conference that if the tournament was canned, she’d consult with the Safa hierarchy to come up with contingency plans, so that this Fifa window is not wasted.

“We’ll work on plan B or plan C. Because we can’t waste this opportunity, we only have two Fifa dates. They have taken away the January and June dates, and we only have two Fifa dates that we can bring in players from abroad,” said the reigning African women’s coach of the year.

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis said they ‘can only continue with our preparations’. (Photo: Paul Harding / Getty Images)

Selma Ndagwedha Enkali of Namibia and Michelle Micayla Sampson of South Africa compete for the ball during the Cosafa Women’s Championship semifinal in Gqeberha on 9 September 2022. (Photo: Richard Huggard / Gallo Images)

Ellis has called up a strong squad which includes the likes of Sassuolo midfielder anchor Refiloe Jane, Glasgow City playmaker Linda Motlhalo and Wafcon-winning forward Hildah Magaia.

Absent from the squad is star striker Thembi Kgatlana. The Racing Louisville attacker is still on the mend after suffering a serious leg injury during Banyana’s Wafcon success in Morocco in 2022. DM

Full Banyana Banyana squad:

Goalkeepers: Andile Dlamini, Kayla Swart, Regirl Ngobeni, Katlego Moletsane.

Defenders: Asanda Hadebe, Karabo Dhlamini, Fikile Magama, Faith Nokuthula, Tiisetso Makhubela, Noko Matlou, Bambanani Mbane, Bongeka Gamede.

Midfielders: Refiloe Jane, Sibulele Holweni, Linda Motlhalo, Kholosa Biyana, Thalea Smidt, Robyn Moodaly, Amogelang Motau.

Forwards: Noxolo Cesane, Gabriela Salgado, Jermaine Seoposenwe, Melinda Kgadiete, Nthabiseng Majiya, Hildah Magaia, Lelona Daweti.


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