Cape Town - Watching the hordes of fans at OR Tambo Airport yesterday celebrating Banyana Banyana’s triumph at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations brought back memories of the 2019 Springbok Rugby World Cup winners.
It was a similar kind of occasion for Siya Kolisi and his team, and there was also a rugby flavour in the crowd as I spotted a Bulls flag being waved proudly.
Injured star striker Thembi Kgatlana tweeted: “It’s so beautiful to finally see @Banyana_Banyana getting all this love and attention. We deserve it!”.
It's so beautiful to finally see @Banyana_Banyana getting all this love and attention. 🇿🇦🇿🇦🇿🇦— Thembi Kgatlana (@Kgatlanathe1st) July 26, 2022
We deserve it!
Coach Desiree Ellis and captain Refiloe Jane and the rest of the team brought joy to Mzansi on Saturday night when they held off a late fightback from hosts Morocco – not to mention those irritating lasers from the crowd – to win 2-1 in Rabat, courtesy of two-goal heroine Hildah Magaia.
Banyana – who have also qualified for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, after featuring in France 2019 – have shown the way to success for the beleaguered Bafana Bafana, who battle to even qualify for the men’s Afcon these days.
Little has gone right for Bafana since the 1996 title was clinched in the final against Tunisia at FNB Stadium, and following qualification for the 1998 and 2002 Fifa World Cups – South Africa only got to the 2010 edition as hosts.
Bafana missed out on all the subsequent World Cups, and won’t be in Qatar later this year either. They failed to qualify for the 2017 Afcon, reached the quarter-finals in 2019 and missed out on the 2021 tournament.
Hugo Broos’ team haven’t made the best of starts to 2023 qualifying either, losing 2-1 to Morocco in June in the same Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat where Banyana won at the weekend.
The main lesson Bafana can learn from Banyana is that there is no overnight fix. The women’s team have walked a long road to get to this point, having lost in five previous finals (1995, 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2018).
Coach Ellis was part of the 1995 group that went down to Nigeria, but now she is the queen of Africa, having also been chosen as Coach of the Year (Women) at the CAF Awards last week. She has continued the previous good work done by coaches such as Vera Pauw, and moulded a competitive squad.
Some of those players are now featuring for overseas clubs, such as skipper Jane (AC Milan in Italy), Jermaine Seoposenwe (Braga, Portugal), Linda Motlhalo (Djurgardens, Sweden) and Kgatlana (Racing Louisville, US).
And don’t forget that Mamelodi Sundowns are the current Women’s CAF Champions League winners too.
There are hardly any Bafana players at overseas clubs, and the likes of Percy Tau have battled to come out on top outside SA as well.
The impression I get is that playing for big local clubs such as Sundowns, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates is enough for the men. That mentality simply has to change if Bafana are going to play in an Afcon or World Cup any time soon.
The players need to put their country first and buy into Broos’ vision, and commit to getting to the 2023 Afcon and 2026 World Cup.