For a number of years, South Africa has been flirting with conquering the CAF Africa Women’s Championship, but after making an appearance in three finals over the last 15 years, they still have nothing to show.
Banyana Banyana, as the South African team is known, have at times shown both promise and potential, but when it mattered most they have fallen short of finishing the job. But after a few oh-so-close encounters with fate, the South African contingent is now wiser. Ambitious captain Simphiwe Dludlu is adamant that they can exorcise their demons and turn their good performances into results when they host the 2010 version of the event starting on Sunday. However in order to claim the trophy that has eluded them for many years, the South Africans will have to explore on uncharted waters.
Turning the trend against Nigeria
In their group, the South Africans face seven-time continental champions, Nigeria's Super Falcons, who are known to be the dominant force in African football. The two sides have met a few times before, and consistently Nigeria have always enjoyed an upper hand. But Dludlu is of the opinion that they can now reverse that trend and establish a new era – one where Banyana can finally raise their hand as a powerhouse in women’s football. The belief in that possibility, Dludlu argues, is there more than before.
“We need to concentrate on getting results, that’s important,” Dludlu told FIFA.com recently. “We have Nigeria in our group, they have always given us problems, but we believe that this is our time to finally shine. We have to make sure that we make it to the final and win the championships.”
That journey begins in the outskirts of Johannesburg in Tembisa – a township that lies east of South Africa’s business city, Johannesburg. At stake is a place in next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. The South Africans have set their eyes on qualifying for their maiden appearance at the World Cup.
“We desperately want to be in Germany at the World Cup, which is what we have been talking about in the team. We feel this is achievable, it’s possible,” she continued. Two years ago, they lost 2-1 to Equatorial Guinea in the final of the CAF Women’s Championship. It was a bitter pill for the South Africans to swallow, especially as they had put in a gutsy performance throughout the tournament. How they let their guard down against Equatorial Guinea when they were only few steps away from winning the trophy still haunts them.
Disappointment and inspiration
“I think everyone knows that we came very close in winning this tournament two years ago, but we want to put that disappointment behind us,” Dludlu explained. “We can’t change what happened there. But we can erase such bad memories with positive results now. We have to try and win all our games, then we will be fine. But that won’t be easy.”
The 23-year old Tuks defender is best remembered for her role as a draw assistant at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Final Draw in Cape Town in 2009 where she appeared with a star-studded list of celebrities that included David Beckham, Charlize Theron, Makhaya Ntini, to mention just a few. It was a glorious opportunity for her.
“I still regard being part of that draw as the highlight of my career,” the South African skipper said. “To be there with all those stars was a humbling experience for me. I had some time to talk to people like Ntini, and I found him to be a wonderful person. His story inspires me a lot: that of a person born in poverty, but worked his way up the ladder even though the odds were stuck against him.”