By Rethabile Nyelele and Rutendo Geraldine Mangwiro
Images by FIFA Women’s World Cup Twitter Account
It was celebration upon celebration on the field as Banyana Banyana won the 2022 Total Energies Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) against hosts Morocco with a 2-1 score. There were tears of joy from the team and coach. It has taken much patience, dedication and perseverance to get to where they are.
On 18 July 2022, a late penalty gave Banyana Banyana the final push they desperately needed to advance to the WAFCON Final. The penalty converted by Linda Motlhalo secured a one nil win over Zambia at Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca, Morocco. The penalty call was due to a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check by the referee that showed Martha Tembo had fouled Jermaine Seoposenwe in the eighteen area.
Banyana Banyana head coach Desiree Ellis stated before the match that the team had big intentions of starting off strong against Zambia. However, Banyana Banyana midfielders could not get hold of the ball as much as they wanted, nor was the ball rotated like they had hoped. The second half gave them more determination to achieve what they had failed to do in the first half.
“It shows the true grit of this group of players. She (Jermaine) gave us balance. Having Jermaine on top looked more threatening. We were in the game — we took control of the game,” said Coach Ellis.
Banyana Banyana had massive support back home, and the President Cyril Ramaphosa showed his support for the team as they spoke on a video call. “We want to applaud you and to wish you the very best tomorrow as you play in the final. You are making South Africa very very proud,” said Ramaphosa.
The video call was a pleasant moment as the President introduced Banyana Banyana to President Alassane Ouattara and explained the meaning of the team’s name. President Ramaphosa acknowledged and applauded coach Ellis for winning coach of the year.
“The whole of South Africa will be watching, so just know that I’ll be amongst those who are watching. Go out there girls and prove to every South African what you are made of,” added Ramaphosa.
And indeed, Banyana Banyana had the country behind them as they prepared for the battlefield with the cup and title in mind.
Fifth time lucky. The South African Women team made history as they walked away champions of the 2022 WAFCON for the first time. Banyana Banyana went head-to-head with the hosts Morocco on Saturday at the Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex, Rabat. The win was necessary for both teams as none of them has had a taste of the WAFCON title before.
At the beginning of the game, both teams immediately clashed and fought from the start of the whistle. But three minutes later, Banyana Banyana striker Hildah Magaia, made her first attempt to score and was unstoppable from that moment.
Despite that, it almost seemed like the hosts were going to score a goal as they dominated the first 30 minutes of the game, putting more pressure on Banyana which led to their first yellow card awarded to defender Lebohang Ramalepe.
The first half was a battle zone with multiple chances presenting themselves for both teams to take the lead but Morocco missed an on-goal target and Banyana missed free kicks, leading to the first half ending with a draw.
In foggy weather, the second half commenced with the same spirit as the first. Magaia’s persistence pulled through and with an exceptional cross pass from Seoposenwe, she scored the first goal through a tap in. Banyana Banyana took the lead after 63 minutes in the second half.
The away team continued to play a tactical game, taking advantage of the immediate lead and Morocco’s lack of defense. Eight minutes later, Magaia scored the second goal, which awaked the Atlas Lions and left Banyana Banyana relaxed and comfortable. A considerable Moroccan crowd left the stadium in disappointment.
The last ten minutes of the game were crucial for both teams. While Banyana slacked, Morocco’s Rosella Ayane scored the first goal in the 80th minute, giving the last standing Moroccan crowd some hope, especially with the added nine minutes.
But as Referee Salima Mukansanga blew the final whistle, it was an unbelievable moment for Banyana Banyana.
“I can’t even describe it, I’m just so happy for the team, for the technical team, for the players and for everyone in South Africa that continues to support us … This is for them. This is for everyone in women’s football that has tirelessly worked towards this goal and we finally did it,” said Banyana Banyana player Seoposenwe. “This is where, as a team, we decided this is where we want to be and we want to win it for South Africa; I’m so proud of my team,” she added.
The award-winning coach, Ellis, added: “The players were absolutely magnificent today.” YC