‘All in the mind’ for Banyana Banyana in Tanzania Olympic qualifier

Banyana midfielder Thalea Smidt says ‘everyone has been pushing each other’ in training ahead of today’s clash against Tanzania. Photo: BackpagePix

Banyana midfielder Thalea Smidt says ‘everyone has been pushing each other’ in training ahead of today’s clash against Tanzania. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Feb 23, 2024


Banyana Banyana (54) and Tanzania (152) are so far apart on the latest Fifa Women’s world rankings that their clash in Dar es Salaam this afternoon (3pm kick-off, SA time) could justifiably be the ultimate David versus Goliath encounter.

Banyana are the reigning African champions who beat the odds to progress to the last 16 of the Women’s World Cup last year after a thrilling 3-2 win over Italy.

But as with the recent Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, world rankings count for nothing in tournaments – and Banyana Banyana will attest to this.

In September 2019, South Africa, the 2018 Wafcon finalists, were hot favourites along with Nigeria to claim the two African slots at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

But Banyana crashed out in the third round of Olympic qualifiers after they lost 3-2 on penalties to Botswana in Soweto.

It was a cruel blow, and several players who turned out for Banyana Banyana then will be in the side to face Tanzania today.

At the time, South Africa’s women’s national team and Botswana were also poles apart on the Fifa rankings.

A detail which will not escape Banyana’s technical staff is that Tanzania scored back-to-back wins over Botswana in the previous round of Olympic qualifiers. Tanzania also kept two clean sheets.

Midfielder Thalea Smidt, a member of Banyana’s victorious 2022 Wafcon team, has urged her teammates not to look beyond today’s match in the CAF Women’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

“We know it’s the third round of qualification, so we don’t want to look beyond (that). We would love to qualify for the Olympics, since we missed out on the previous Olympics,” Smidt said in an interview with the Safa media department.

“Our main focus is the game against Tanzania. We must focus first on the away leg in Tanzania, and then on the home leg in South Africa.

“We know what’s at stake. We’ve prepared well, and we must make sure that we do our best.

“The Olympics is the end goal, but you have to take it one game at a time,” she continued.

“I think every footballer would have the Olympics on their list of things they would love to compete in.”

Smidt said the occasion calls for mental fortitude from coach Desiree Ellis’ team ahead of today’s first-leg clash.

The second leg will be played in Mbombela next week Tuesday. The aggregate winner will advance to the final round of qualifying.

“I think it’s all in the mind. We don’t have to put anything in our minds that, you know, isn’t a reality. I think the mind is such a powerful tool,” said Smidt.

“We’ve been preparing, and we’ve been pushing each other. You could see the intensity of training. The intensity was good.

“Everyone was pushing each other. I think it’s all in the mind.

“We just have to go and do the job on the field. What you put in the mind is what we give power to.

“Just having a mutual goal as a team and a mutual objective, and everyone giving their all on the day with 100 percent, then I think we can attain our goal as a team.”