- South Africa exit their maiden Women's World Cup at group stage
- Thembi Kgatlana scored the only goal for Banyana Banyana
- South Africa have shown interest in hosting the 2023 edition of the tournament
By Busisiwe Mokwena with South Africa
Although Banyana Banyana captured the hearts of many people with their committed performances in their debut FIFA Women’s World Cup™, it wasn’t enough to see them successfully navigate the group stages of the tournament. But despite their failure to pick up a point in France, there were a number of high-level performances, with a trio of stars shining bright in Desiree Ellis's squad.
She will be remembered as the player who scored South Africa's first Women's World Cup goal, but not only that. Having been named among the best players in Africa, Kgatlana continues to influence the team’s attack, making it difficult for defenders to contain her. For her, playing on the world stage wasn’t just a chance for her to shine, but an opportunity to open doors for other players in South Africa.
Although she conceded the most goals of the two Banyana goalkeepers that featured in the tournament, Dlamini made some outstanding saves too. She showed remarkable mental strength in their last group match against Germany, recovering from an error in the first half to excel in the second. After being demoted to second-choice goalkeeper, and not playing a single match at the CAF Women’s African Cup of Nations, she left everything on the field.
It may have taken her a whole game to come out of her shell but she was an outstanding member of the Banyana defence. The diminutive right-back is not only tenacious but also attacks with confidence and can take on attackers almost twice her size.
As well as the standout individual performances that mean Banyana Banyana's bow on the global stage will be long remembered, things are beginning to be put into place so there is a genuine legacy from France 2019.
"We now need to go home and structures need to be put in place for us to grow as a national team," captain Janine van Wyk said. "We need to start playing quality international teams in order for us to get to the level that they are at. European teams can travel two hours and they can play a strong opponent, in Africa there are only a few teams that are able to compete against each other at this level, so there is a lot to be put in place. But we are really happy with the way we have performed despite the results. And we have raised some eyebrows I believe.
"There’s a big difference in terms of the level of football, but slowly women’s football in South Africa is growing. They are looking to have a pro league, but it will take time to get to the level of these players [that South Africa faced in France]."
As Van Wyk notes, the formation of a national league on the horizon gives hope to players that they can finally play football for a living. The 12-team league is scheduled to kick off on Women’s Day (9 August) and is a first step to having a fully-fledged professional league.
"There are a lot of positives we can take from the World Cup performance," said Jerry Tshabalala, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies coach. "The girls did their best despite the results not going their way, also taking into consideration that our girls aren’t full time professional players. We should be proud of our team. Playing in the World Cup will encourage the younger players to start taking their football careers seriously."
Fans at home and around the world have sat up and taken notice of Banyana. With the South African Football Association having expressed an interest in hosting the 2023 edition of the global finals, an even brighter future could very well await aspiring women's footballers across the nation.