Tomorrow evening marks a historic moment for South Africa, when the national women’s football team, Banyana Banyana, will be playing in their first ever World Cup against Spain.
This match is testament to the drive and energy of Coach Desiree Ellis who, after taking the coaching reigns last year, listed three goals: qualify for AFCON 2018, the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.
She had already achieved the first goal and the team qualified for the World Cup last year during their AFCON match against Mali.
At the time, she made history by becoming the only coach to lead Banyana to its first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification.
The team however, is still a work-in-progress, ranking 49th against Spain’s 13th place. The team will also take on Germany and China, which are ranked 2nd and 16th respectively.
Coach Ellis is however optimistic and says that this is an opportunity for the women to show they are able to compete against the best and to assess their performance.
“This is a huge task for which we have prepared very thoroughly with no less than nine competitive matches this year and we will do our best to make the whole country proud,” said Coach Ellis.
“ I believe this is a good platform for our players to not only play against some of the best in the world, but also to make sure they show the South African quality we bring to the beautiful game.”
This match marks the second time that Spain has competed in the World Cup, having qualified for the first time in 2010. This will also be China’s 7th and Germany’s 8th World Cup appearance.
Germany is also the 2011 World Cup winners.
Of her team, Coach Ellis says that they have “selected a very strong and experienced team, the bulk of which was instrumental in securing qualification for this World Cup.”
She adds that the “squad has well over 1000 caps in total” and four players; Janine Van Wyk, Noku Matlou, Nothando Vilakazi and Refiloe Jane have over 100 caps each.
There are also some youngsters thrown into the mix, including two uncapped players, namely, Bongeka Gamede and Mapaseka Mpuru.
Another two players, Sibulele Holweni and Karabo Dhlamini, will be at their second World Cup in less than a year, following their appearance at the 2018 FIFA under 17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay.
Of this historic occasion, Coach Ellis says that she is grateful for the South African Football Association for entrusting her with this huge task as well as their sponsors, Sasol, who have been behind this team for the past eleven years.
The match against Spain will take place tomorrow evening (Saturday) at the Stade Oceane, Le Havre, France, on Saturday at 6pm.