The University of Fort Hare women’s football team are smiling all the way to the bank after winning the Sasol National League Championships.
The varsity from the Eastern Cape beat KZN-based side Lindelani Ladies 4-3 on penalties, after the match ended goalless in regulation time, in the final at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium, Bloemfontein, on Sunday.
Having already qualified for the Super League by being the finalists, UFH added the cherry on top in their campaign by winning the final in the City of Roses.
It was a jubilant afternoon for UFH as they didn’t only walk away with the country’s bragging or the title, but a cool cheque of R200 000 – courtesy of sponsors Sasol as well.
Coach Asanda Mnakaniso’s team didn’t do it all by themselves – their management and fellow students, who travelled from the semi-final, spurred them on.
Their coronation was even more special as it was witnessed by the university’s vice chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu and dean: student affairs Lufuno Tshikhudo.
Buhlungu says they are proud of the team’s near-perfect participation in the competition so much so that they’ll make efforts to reward them.
“Without revealing much, the players will get incentives first for qualifying for the Super League and secondly for winning the final,” an elated Buhlungu said.
Fort Hare’s promotion to the Super League was historic. They’ll be the first varsity from the EC to play in the top-tier division, something they achieved at first attempt.
But playing in the Super League is no child’s play as it requires support and resources. And Buhlungu has vowed they’ll do everything they can to back the team.
“We are going to put more resources into the team. One of the important things about our campus, Alice, is that it is the heart of sporting excellence,” he said.
“We’ve excelled in other sporting codes, and now we have these ladies. Yes, we have facilities, and they might not be adequate, we are going to ask our executive to invest more.”
UFH’s triumph has also aided the growth of women’s football, with Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis set to have a huge pool of players to select her squads from.
And that’s why Safa president Danny Jordaan, who’s also from the Eastern Cape, particularly welcomed the addition of another university team in the Super League.
“Goodluck to Fort Hare. We have so many universities in the Super League, and now there’s another one,” Jordaan explained.
“The university is a structured organization. They have budgets and facilities. UCT was here and unfortunately, they couldn’t make it.
“The vice chancellor of Fort Hare was here. He came to receive the trophy personally. We want to wish all the best going forward.”
Sure, the day belonged to the university from Alice in the Eastern Cape, but it wouldn’t have been possible without petroleum magnates Sasol who are the sponsors of the league.
And thanks to Sasol, Banyana’s elite, Ellis, and her captain Thembi Kgatlana were at the tournament to scout and share their experience with the players and coach.
Sasol’s senior manager: Brand and sponsorships Nozipho Mbatha says they are grateful to Banyana representatives for spending with them this week.
“We are grateful for what they did – to just come out here and give their time and share their stories. The players look up to people who have walked this journey,” Mbatha said.
“For coach Maude (Khumalo) and Desiree, and Thembi to come and spend their time here speaks testament to what we are trying to achieve in the space of women’s football.”
* Mihlali is in Bloemfontein, covering the National Champs, courtesy of Sasol