Banyana are the team to beat in African football. They achieved the improbable last year in Morocco, winning their maiden Africa Cup of Nations title. And with that historic run serving as a qualifier for the World Cup, they again etched their names in the history books in Australasia, qualifying in the last 16 of the global showpiece for the very first time.
Those were not only achievements that showed the progress of women’s football in South Africa, but also made them one of the teams to beat on the continent. Banyana will be the team to beat when they begin their Paris Games qualifiers against the Democratic Republic of the Congo away next Monday.
The return leg is on October 31.
Desiree Ellis’ team failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, having lost on penalties to neighbours Botswana in the qualifiers. But having achieved so much since that heartbreaking night at Orlando Stadium, both in Africa and the rest of the world, Banyana have garnered themselves friends and enemies.
Speaking as a guest at the arrival of the Under-25 SA wheelchair basketball team at Radisson Hotel in Kempton Park, Kgoale urged her teammates to dig deep after their heroics.
“As I said in the speech, you are at the top of the mountain, now what? What do you do because everyone is looking at you?” Kgoale said.
“It’s going to be important as a team to refocus and recharge, and look at our goals again. We need to ask, what do we want to achieve?
“Before achieving everything that we achieved, we set goals and said this is what we want at this time. And we achieved everything, every goal that was set.
“So, for me it’s going to be interesting when we arrive at camp and revisit our goals again – and see where we want to be.”
But while Banyana will have to rest their goals, they’ll know that they will hit potholes here and there in their quest to challenge the top teams in the world. Banyana missed out on the Cosafa Championship this week, failing to get out of their group after finishing behind Malawi in Group A.
Banyana’s downfall was due in part to selecting a largely inexperienced team. Ellis was not only forced to do that because of the unavailability of senior players but she was also widening the playing pool.
Kgoale highlighted the scouting of players from lower leagues such as the Sasol League, which unleashed one of Banyana’s wingers.
“When we talk about development, that’s it – the Sasol League! Wendy Shongwe came in and joined Banyana Banyana. She had to quickly change her mindset like us,” Kgoale said.
“And I think that’s demanding of a young player like she is – to expect her to show up on that magnitude like the World Cup. The sponsors, Sasol, are doing an incredible job.”
The 14th edition of the Sasol League national championships get underway in Bloemfontein tomorrow, with the two finalists, who will be promoted to the Super League, confirmed on Sunday.
“Lipstick Lady” endorses such competitions as they are the breeding ground of some of the players who now ply their trade at some of the best teams in SA and the world.
“Development is key. 100%. And there are so many players who are coming from the Sasol League, and they continue to be great and strive for better,” Kgoale said.