Banyana Banyana huddle together during their match against Japan.

Banyana Banyana’s journey to the 2012 Olympics ended with defiant pride on Tuesday, as they held the world champions Japan to a goalless draw.

The ladies national team had been much maligned after heavy defeats to Sweden and Canada, and it is to their credit that they did not let their heads drop in Cardiff, albeit against a slightly depleted Japan side, who played in the closing stages as if perfectly content with a neutral scoreline (they had, after all, qualified comfortably for the quarter-finals).

For any who still believe that Banyana failed at the Olympics, in going out at the group stages, I say they should take a serious bite out of the apple of realism.

As I watched Banyana getting hammered by Sweden in their opening match, I grew increasingly nauseated by the co-commentary of Gary Bloom, whose persistent sniping at South Africa’s tactical naivete was repetitive and irritatingly superior.

At no time did Bloom actually stop to consider the context in which Banyana and Sweden were meeting. This was a team of Scandinavian professionals, from a country with a wealth of experience on the world stage, up against a side made up mostly of amateurs, playing in their first ever Olympics.

Sweden are ranked fourth in the world, Banyana are 61st. So what exactly did anyone expect other than a hefty beating? The 4-1 final score was actually not that bad in this context, with Banyana putting in a decent showing in the second half, Portia Modise’s wonderful chip surely already a candidate for goal of the tournament.

Canada, Banyana’s second opponents, are only slightly lower down the international rung than Sweden, at seventh in the world, and are again a side only too familiar with the world stage.

This might be only their second Olympics, but the Canadians have played in five Women’s World Cups, and again, simply had too much class, as might be expected, for Banyana.

I have little doubt that Japan, with more to play for yesterday than group position, would have taken down Banyana too. Nevertheless, even in a ‘dead’ rubber, a draw is not to be sniffed at.

In fact, simply by qualifying for London 2012, these ladies, for me, deserve a heroes welcome on their return to South Africa this week.

After all, for all the professional structures in the world, Amaglug-glug have not made it to an Olympics since 2000, while Bafana Bafana have not qualified for a major tournament since 2008. Our ladies have already put our men’s sides to shame. – The Star