Banyana Banyana vice-captain Refiloe Jane thanked coach Desiree Ellis for “allowing” her to leave the team just two days before the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations final against Nigeria on Saturday.
Jane, who has been one of the star performers in Ghana, made the shock announcement on Thursday that she will be rejoining her Australian club Canberra United and miss the Awcon decider.
Banyana had clinched their first ever qualification for the Women’s World Cup by beating Mali 2-0 in the semi-final on Tuesday night.
They are determined to finish the job by claiming their first ever African title against Nigeria, but they will have to do it without midfielder Jane.
“It’s sad that I am not going to be in the final against Nigeria, even though a part of me still wants to play. But a part of me still needs to go and live my other dream of playing pro football overseas,” Jane said in an interview on the Safa website on Thursday.
“It’s not an easy task to be done, but it’s the perk of being an athlete. Sometimes God places you in situations, knowing what’s best for you. Even though I want to be here, He placed me here, but I should be somewhere else.
“So, wherever He places me, it’s where I will go. I met with the team and sent my goodbye messages and inform them that I won’t be available for the final.
“But we’ve got quality players in the team to lift the trophy, whether I’m here or not.
“And I want to thank the technical team for allowing me to leave at this crucial time of the tournament. If it was any other coach, I don’t think it was going to be easy for them to say ‘You can leave’ for the final.”
In fact, what was Banyana’s greatest moment in their history has been a bit of a damp squib for Jane. Moments after the win over Mali, the 26-year-old midfielder had to undergo drug-testing.
“It’s still mixed emotions, because I didn’t get a chance to celebrate. Immediately after the final whistle, I had to go to doping,” Jane said.
“I spent about three hours there while the team was celebrating, so I kind of missed the celebrations, and that feeling hasn’t sunk in yet. I must still wake up from that, but hopefully I will realise later on that I’ve made it to the World Cup.”
And despite South Africa having already secured their place at France 2019, Jane said they were determined to beat Nigeria again in Saturday’s final in Accra (6pm SA time kickoff).
“Playing Nigeria in the final is going to be interesting, as we beat them in the opening match. It’s not going to be easy as they are still hurt about the loss, and won’t be relaxed about it,” she said.
“It’s about time that we win this tournament. Beating them only in the group stages does not mean that it’s all over – we still want the cherry on top, which is to lift the trophy.
“Now that we’ve qualified for the World Cup, we shouldn’t relax.
“Things have to start changing, and we need to get more and more support in that regard, so that we can fully prepare as a team for the World Cup. We don’t want to just make up the numbers, but compete and make South Africa known.
“We want to make the most of it and just change people’s lives, and bring hope to the nation.”@ashfakmohamed