The South African Senior Women’s National Team (Banyana Banyana) returned home from the Olympic Games. The squad touched down on Thursday, 2 August 2012, richer in experience after holding World Cup champions Japan to a goal-less draw in their final Group F fixture in London this week.
The team, led by head Joseph Mkhonza and captain Amanda Dlamini, was welcome by Minister of Sport and Recreation, the Honourable Mr Fikile Mbalula, president of the South African Football Association (SAFA), Kirsten Nematandani – both of whom also arrived in the morning from the Games – as well SAFA National Executive Committee (NEC) members Xolani Mtumtum and Anthony Reeves.
“They met the best and were defeated, but we are still proud of them. The future looks bright though for women’s football in South Africa and we need to engage SAFA on trying to get going a professional women’s league in this country because that is the only advantage the other countries have on us. Well done girls, and we are aware you could have done a lot better, but qualifying and being at the Games is victory in itself,” said Minister Mbalula.
“We were surely not disgraced. We should applaud the girls for their good showing. Playing against such established countries is no mean feat, but our girls stood their ground, even though they went down in two matches out of three. We are proud of you girls, and are confident that going forward we will grow even more,” said Nematandani.
There were also family members and a few fans on hand to receive the team.
“This was an unforgettable and proud moment for me personally as well as the whole team. Also it was an experience of a lifetime, and we learnt a lot as a team and we are confident those lessons will stand us in good stead when we tackle the CAF African Women Championship 2012 in Equatorial Guinea starting at the end of October,” said Dlamini.
“To hold World Cup champions Japan to a draw in our final match was the highlight of the Olympic Games campaign as we fancied our chances against them as we play a similar style to them and backed our pace against them. Even though we started very slowly, we grew stronger as a team and we know next time we know what to expect. We lived our dream.”
Mkhonza was also full of praise for his players, saying they did the country proud.
“I must say I have mixed emotions. The team played against the best and we came second best, but we did not disgrace ourselves. It was through our mistakes that we were beaten, but we go into the future confident that we gave our best and will be a force to be reckoned with. The last game we played was mainly for pride, but the girls showed their true potential. I am happy with the performance but not the results,” said Mkhonza.
“Special thanks must go to SASCOC, Safa, the Department of Sport and Recreation and our team sponsor Sasol, for their support of our team. The South African public and the media have also shown great interest in our team and long may this continue.”
Banyana Banyana went down 4-1 to Sweden and 3-0 to Canada before holding Japan to a goal-less draw in the last match.
Striker Portia Modise made history when she became the first player to score for Banyana Banyana in an Olympic tournament.
“I cannot stand here and take all the glory. Gratitude should go to my teammates because I could not have done it without them. I am still excited over the goal, and I must agree it was a great goal. It’s one I will remember for a very long time,” said an elated Modise.
The squad will take a rest before resuming preparations for the upcoming AWC tournament.
South Africa and Cameroon represented Africa at the Olympics.
This was Banyana Banyana’s first Olympic appearance.