14 November 2012
Banyana Banyana returned home from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) African Women’s Championship on Tuesday to a rapturous welcome from hordes of supporters who brought the arrivals hall at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport to a standstill.
The South African national women’s football team reached the final of the continental championship for a third time, but were beaten 4-0 by the hosts, Equatorial Guinea, in the title decider.
In 2008, they also lost to Equatorial Guinea, who were also hosts at that time, in the final.
Business came to a standstill as onlookers joined the “welcoming party”.
Looking fatigued after a long flight which saw them stuck at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport en route home for hours, Banyana landed on Tuesday afternoon and then had problems negotiating their way through as a mass of supporters scrambled for their attention.
Coach Joseph Mkhonza, who was last week named the South African Coach of the Year at the South African Sports Awards, said while the team had achieved its goal of reaching the final and beating their nemesis Nigeria, they would have loved to go all the way and win the title.
“We have laid a solid foundation and I hope next time we should go all the way. This team is gelling and I am confident we are heading towards a ‘golden era’ for women’s football in the country,” he said.
Captain Amanda Dlamini said the semi-final win against Nigeria might have taken some of the fight out of the team, but “getting so near, yet so far” was not a disgrace.
South African Football Association (SAfa) President, Kirsten Nematandani said Banyana Banyana had done the country proud.
“They gave it their all. As a country, we are happy and proud of these heroines,” he said.
A professional league?
Caf vice-president Natasha Tschiclas, meanwhile, has encouraged Safa to start a professional women’s football league in South Africa.
In an interview with radio station SAfm, she said: “They are very determined. They love what they are doing and they are professional footballers. They’re not amateurs; look at the way they play.
“We could so easily become number one in South Africa, just by having the right structure in place, and that would be through a professional league.”
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