Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis and her players celebrate at the final whistle against Mali, with the 2-0 victory qualifying them for the World Cup. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

President Cyril Ramaphosa has praised Banyana Banyana, saying that they have “put us on the map once again” after qualifying for the Women’s World Cup.

Ramaphosa contacted the team on Friday night via a video call from Buenos Aires, where he is attending the G20 Summit.

Banyana will face Nigeria in the final of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (Awcon) in Accra, Ghana tonight at 6pm SA time.

But they are already through to the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France after beating Mali 2-0 in the Awcon semi-final earlier this week.

“Well done, you have made us proud. As the Cabinet, as the Government of South Africa, we thank you and applaud you for the good work you have done. We have no doubt that you will succeed. We have seen the way you go about your business, the way you perform your duties, and we are very impressed,” Ramaphosa said.

“The other day in the Assembly, we started our gathering with a standing ovation to you, because you really deserve it. Remember that everyone in South Africa, all 57 million, is behind you and we applaud you.

“Halala to all of you as Superwomen of our country.”

After a number of near-misses in the past, Banyana will be attending their first ever World Cup.

Coach Desiree Ellis was the assistant mentor the last time they fell short at the final hurdle, and Ramaphosa congratulated her for taking Banyana to the top.

“To you Desiree, you have done extremely well, and we are proud of you for leading a very good team. The determination of your team has taken them far, and will take them even further. Do not be afraid, go get them, and all the best,” he said.

Ellis was delighted to chat with the President.

“I must admit it was a pleasant surprise to get a call from the President of the country. We have always known that we have the support of millions of South Africans, but to get a direct message from the highest office in our country makes it extra special,” Ellis said.

“We really appreciate that the President took time off from his busy schedule just to wish us. It’s moments like these that make us feel good to be South African. It is such deeds that say all the hard work put in makes it worthwhile.

“The call was really motivating, and we will do the best we can to get our hands on that trophy.”

South Africa’s Ambassador to Ghana, Lulu Xingwana and SA Football Association president Danny Jordaan was with Banyana when Ramaphosa called, while Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Minister in the Presidency for the National Planning Commission for Policy and Evaluation, also sent a letter to the team to wish them well.

Minister for Women, Bathabile Dlamini, said in a statement: “On the day of the game, South Africa should come to a standstill. As a nation, we have previously and continuously gone to great lengths to support Bafana Bafana. We should extend the same consciousness to Banyana Banyana.”

After the final, Banyana will fly back to South Africa on Sunday, and are set to land at 5.30pm at OR Tambo International Airport.

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