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HOW SUNDOWNS LADIES BECAME THE MOST DOMINANT FORCE IN AFRICAN WOMEN'S FOOTBALL Sundowns Ladies 2021 CAF Women's Champions League WinnersAuthor: Dumisani KoyanaPhotos: Samuel Shivambu - BackpagePixAfter clinching an unprecedented treble which comprised of the Hollywoodbets Super League, COSAFA CAF Women's Champions League qualifiers and the CAF Women's Champions League in Egypt, Sundowns Ladies have become synonymous with dominance in African women's football. Since their formation in 2009, The Brazilians have made their mark on the women's game by consistently raising their game to overcome the challenges they faced.Phillistus Asa Rabalao, Bambanani Nolufefe Mbane, Zanele Portia Nhlapho, Karabo Makhurubetshi and Andile Dlamini holding their medalsTheir signature never-give-up attitude resonates with the club’s motto – ‘The Sky is the Limit’. Most recently, the phrase ‘Our Rise Is Limitless’ has echoed through the corridors of the Chloorkop side – a saying which has allowed Banyana Ba Style to dream and dream big.
In 2021, Masandawana showed their ruthlessness across the three competitions they participated in. During the COSAFA CAF Women's Champions League qualifiers, Banyana Ba Style scored an incredible 22 goals across five games and conceded just once. The Brazilians clinched the inaugural edition of the CAF Women’s Champions League without conceding a single goal. The Chloorkop side also dominated the Hollywoodbets Super League after winning 24 matches out of 26 games played, with just one draw. Coach Jerry Tshabalala’s troops also scored the highest number of league goals with 87 strikes to their name, smashing last season’s tally of 82 goals. Furthermore, Downs possessed the best defense with 14 goals conceded all season and finished with a goal difference +73, the best in the league. Bambanani Nolufefe Mbane, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Melinda Kgadiete and Regina Mogolola celebrate during the 2021 TotalEnergies CAF Women's Champions league finalKey numbers behind the treble-winning season 0 – Total number of goals conceded at the CAF Women’s Champions League in Egypt 1 – Total number of goals conceded at the COSAFA CAF Women’s Champions League 3 – Total number of times the Brazilians scored 7 or more goals in a game this season (8 and 7 scored against Tsunami Queens, 7 against Ma-Indies Ladies). 4 – Total number of goals scored by the Brazilians in Egypt 15 – Total number of goals conceded throughout the season. 21 – Number of clean sheets kept this season across all competitions. 36 – Number of games played across the three competitions. 113 – Total number of goals scored throughout the season. What the Ladies said after enjoying an all-conquering season After a scintillating year, the Mamelodi Sundowns Digital Magazine Crew sat down with some members of the record-breaking team. For some, the treble-winning season was a reward for hard work and perseverance; for others, it was perfect redemption after battling with career-threatening injuries. Asa Rabolao (Goalkeeper) – “What we have achieved this year is down to sheer determination and absolute commitment. We wrote our history and this is the result of the quality efforts we put in during training sessions. As the popular saying goes - if you don’t concede, the chances of winning are plenty.” Andile Dlamini (Goalkeeper) – “I was out for the majority of the year through illness, but I always felt I was part of the team. Getting back on the pitch was a miracle, and finishing as the Best Goalkeeper at the CAF Women’s Champions League was the cherry on top.”Regina Keresi Mogolola (Defender) – “We are a solid proof that clean sheets win Championships. As a defender, my job was to make sure that every time I was on the field, our mission was to prevent our opponents from scoring while we did the business further up the pitch. Thankfully, we did not concede a goal in Egypt.”Karabo Makhurubetshi (Defender) – “We put in a lot of hard work and the results we attained were not a fluke. As a defender, nothing is as discouraging as conceding goals and we mastered the art of racking up clean sheets. I am happy to have been part of this record-setting team and next year we are 100% sure that we will carry on from where we left off in 2021.”Oratile Mokwena (Midfielder) – “It is an honor to be part of the club. It was a year full of adventures and I am happy to say that I am an African Champions League winner. Next is to conquer the World with my ever-hardworking teammates.”Lelona Daweti (Midfielder) – “When the season started, my main objective was to score enough goals and assist my teammates. I am proud to say that I achieved my main goal. Despite the tough games we faced in both the league and on the continent, I am excited that we ended the season on a high.”Chuene Morifi (Midfielder) – “It has been a long year as we played a lot of games. Despite the hectic schedule, we defended the league and also won continental accolades. At Mamelodi Sundowns, every time you step out to represent the brand, you are expected to win. I wish to thank the Masandawana family for all the warm wishes and support.”Lehlogonolo Mashigo (Midfielder) – “It was quite a traumatic season for me due to the injuries I sustained, but I am glad it ended well. Although I did not play a lot, the team put on a show across all the competitions. I am happy we showcased our talents and represented the brand of Mamelodi Sundowns with pride; as you know I am from Mamelodi.”Lerato Kgasago (Midfielder) – “When the season began, we had a collective mandate to win the competitions we competed in. Thankfully, we ended up winning a stunning treble. I am forever grateful to my teammates for showing great team spirit and making sure we conquered the continent.”Thalea Smidt (Midfielder) – “This is my first season with the club and I must say I have enjoyed every bit of my stay with The Brazilians. Unfortunately, I suffered a long-term injury but look at me now; I am a treble winner and it has been a great year. I can’t wait for next season.”Andisiwe Mgcoyi (Striker) – “I am very thankful to everyone that has believed in me even when the goals were not flowing. No matter how many runs, assists and great passes a striker has, the most important unit of contribution for a forward remains the goals. Overall, it was a remarkable season for us and I am very excited to be a part of this record-breaking team.”The African Champions holding up the trophy Key moments from the treble-winning season
Melinda Kgadiete scored Sundowns’ first goals across the three competitions (against Golden Ladies in the league, against Lesotho Defence Force at the COSAFA CAF qualifiers and against Kenya’s Vihiga Queens at the CAF Women’s Champions League).
Not a single game was lost throughout the season (except for point deduction against First Touch FC).
Captain Zanele Nhlapho featured briefly as a goalkeeper against Eswatini’s Manzini Wanderers at the COSAFA CAF qualifiers. This was after Asa Rabolao sustained a late knock.
A couple of 15-year-olds made their debut with Banyana Ba Style such as Lumka Qhekeka, Sphesihle Magazi and Sinenhlanhla Nkosi.
The top three biggest victories saw Sundowns Ladies register 8-0 and 7-0 wins against Tsunami Queens and a further 7 against Ma-Indies Ladies.
Andisiwe Mgcoyi grabbed a share of the Hollywoodbets Super League Golden Boot with 27 goals after grabbing double hat-tricks in the last game against Ma-Indies Ladies.
Several players featured for the South Africa women's national football team during the season such as Andile Dlamini, Asa Rabolao, Nhlanhla Mthandi, Karabo Makhurubetshi, Bambanani Mbane, Oratile Mokwena, Lelona Daweti and Melinda Kgadiete (Banyana Banyana). Khunjulwa Mali and Thembelihle Masibi both featured for the national under-20 football team.
From the CAF Women’s Champions League Best Eleven of the tournament, the likes of Andile Dlamini, Zanele Nhlapho and Bambanani Mbane were selected.
Overall, Sundowns Ladies enjoyed an incredible season and will be eyeing more impressive records in 2022. By conquering the continent, Mamelodi Sundowns became the very first African team to clinch the men's and women's Champions League titles.