SouthAfrica.info (Johannesburg)

South Africa/Nigeria: 'New Era' for Women's Football

Photo: SA Info
South Africa women's national senior socccer Banyana Banyana to play in AWC finals against Equatorial Guinea.

Banyana Banyana's 1-0 semi-final triumph over Nigeria in the Confederation of African Football (Caf) African Women's Championship in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, on Wednesday, has been hailed as the dawn of a new era for women's football in South Africa.

Speaking after Banyana Banyana's historic win over Nigeria, South African Football Association (Safa) President Kirsten Nematandani said these were exciting times for women's football in the country. He will fly to Malaba to support the team when it takes on hosts Equatorial Guinea in the final on Sunday.

"That was a fantastic result and we now hope to go all the way and capture the title on Sunday," Nematandani said. "Banyana Banyana have really become a prestigious South African brand and, as predicted, the Olympics experience is starting to tell.

The growth of women's football

"Nigeria has always gotten the better of our girls, and Wednesday's win should herald a new era for women's football in our country. The victory should open doors for the growth of women soccer.

"Well done to the girls for making the country proud."

Banyana Banyana coach Joseph Mkhonza, who took charge of the team after a bronze medal finish at the last African Women's Championship in South Africa, remarked: "We have come a long way since winning the bronze medal in Ekurhuleni in 2010. We know that past reputations count for nothing. As we have seen our first ever win against Nigeria so anything is possible.

"We are in a very positive frame of mind going into the final game against the hosts, but we are still focused on attaining our mission of taking gold in this tournament.

'Mission on track'

"We came here with a mission and that mission is still on track," said Mkhonza.

After the victory over Nigeria, nobody in the Banyana Banyana camp had a bigger smile than central defender Janine van Wyk, whose stunning 23rd minute left-footed strike from 25 metres broke the Nigerians' hearts and gave South Africa their first ever win over Africa's number one ranked side since 1993, when the South African national women's team came into being.

"At the Caf African Championship held in South Africa in 2010, I scored with a free kick from 35 metres out against Nigeria, and my team-mates always remind me that I normally reserve my best for matches against Nigeria," Van Wyk laughed.

'An amazing feeling'

"I have been in this squad since 2004 and have played 90 times for the national team, so to be in the team that defeated Nigeria for the first time leaves an amazing feeling that I will cherish forever.

Van Wyk added: "Safa and Sasol need to be thanked for the continued support given to women's football, which has allowed the players to become household names across all communities, and role models, most notably to the youth."

Sasol sponsorship specialist Dumisani Mbokane expressed his delight at the national team's successful passage to the grand finale of Africa's premier women's football event.

"Sasol is a committed role player in working towards the empowerment of women through football which is a key cornerstone of nation building," said Mbokane. "On behalf of Sasol, I would like to extend our sincere congratulations to the Banyana Banyana management and players, and wish them the best of luck for Sunday's final."

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InFocus

South Africa's Banyana to Face Unbeaten Hosts in Final

South Africa women's national senior socccer Banyana Banyana to play in AWC finals against Equatorial Guinea.

Banyana Banyana who defeated the reigning champions Nigeria will play the unbeaten hosts Equatorial Guinea for the CAF African Women Championship final. Read more »