South Africa have been regular participants in women’s qualifying competitions across all age groups, but they have never previously been able to qualify for any of the FIFA tournaments. The country’s U-17 women’s team, Bantwana, lost both of their games in the second round of 2008 preliminaries, first beaten 2-0 away by Cameroon and then 1-0 at home. South Africa had been drawn to play Botswana in the first round but missed out on vital practice when their neighbours withdrew on the eve of the tie. Cameroon went onto the final round of the qualifiers but were also subsequently eliminated, leaving Ghana and Nigeria to progress to the tournament in New Zealand as Africa’s representatives.
An academy programme has done much to discover exciting footballing talent among South Africa’s young women and the rewards for the country have been almost immediate. Bantwana began their campaign in emphatic fashion by beating Botswana 9-1 away in March and then 13-0 at home coming close to a record score for any of the country’s representative teams. Up next were Nigeria, but this proved a tough task as South Africa lost 5-0 away and then 2-1 at home. With three teams qualifying from the region for the first time, they went into a play-off match against Tunisia to decide the final African berth for the tournament in Trinidad and Tobago behind Ghana and Nigeria. It took 88 minutes for Alice Khosa to score the winner for a 1-0 home triumph in the first leg, and South Africa then went to north Africa and won 2-1 with goals from Robyn Moodley and Christelene Jantjies.
“We are in a difficult group with Germany, DPR Korea and Mexico, they are all hot teams,” says the South African Football Association’s director of women’s football, Fran Hilton-Smith. “But we’ve waited for 16 years just to qualify and we’ve always known that if we can just get there and our players can get a taste of what a World Cup is like, it will change their approach to the game and make them a lot more ambitious.” Bantwana have scheduled two upcoming friendlies against England, who surprisingly did not qualify for the finals, and also against hosts Trinidad and Tobago.
Facts and figures
Rachel Sebati, Tshegofatso Makinta, Robin Moodley
South Africa won 22-1 on aggregate against Botswana in their first qualifying tie but scored only 4 more goals in four subsequent matches before reaching the finals in Trinidad and Tobago.
The numbers game
9 – the number of goals Tshegofatso Makinta bagged during the qualifiers for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2010, two more than her team-mate Christelene Jantjies.