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BANYANA BA STYLESECURES HISTORIC TICKETTO INAUGURAL CAF WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSLEAGUEAuthor: Dumisani KoyanaPhotos: BackPage Pix“Take your victories, whatever they might be, cherish them, use them, but don’t settle for them.” Those were the words of the United States women's national soccer team legend, Mia Hamm – a two-time Olympic gold medallist and two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion.This emphatic axiom resonates with the fortunes of the evergreen Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies who recently boosted their quest to extend their domestic dominance onto the continental realms. In recent times, Banyana Ba Style has been celebrated for their ability to dominate games with relative ease while embarking on scoring sprees. The Hollywoodbets Super League leaders are currently averaging just over three goals per game and are yet to taste defeat in the league this season. Let that sink in. As the Brazilians went to war with some of the teams across the Southern Region in the CAF Women’s Champions League - COSAFA qualifiers, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies were keen to showcase their attacking flair and goal-scoring prowess, and they truly delivered.
The tournament was hosted in eThekwini and had teams from all over the Southern Region. Banyana Ba Style was pitted in Group A with Lesotho Defence Force, Double Action Ladies from Botswana and Manzini Wanderers from Eswatini. Masandawana delivered ‘six-pack’ performances across the group stages, scoring eighteen times, six against each opponent, and conceding just once. The Brazilians then secured a hard-fought 1-0 semi-final win over Zambia’s Green Buffaloes before sealing a comprehensive 3-nil victory over Zimbabwe’s Black Rhino Queens in the final. That emphatic victory ensured that Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies accomplished the mission of qualifying for the inaugural edition of the TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League to be staged in Egypt later this year.
As the final whistle was blown at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban, there were scenes of jubilation among the players and technical crew as the team completed the first phase of their quest towards continental domination. Captain Zanele Nhlapho, Andisiwe Mgcoyi and Melinda Kgadiete spoke about their experiences of representing the country at the COSAFA qualifiers.
Captain Nhlapho was full of praise for her teammates who dazzled from start to finish as she excitedly expressed. "It was an interesting journey for me and my team. The tournament was fun, challenging and the main focus was to make sure that we secured the ticket to Egypt. In the end, that is what we came to achieve and through our hard work, we managed to do it” as noted by the highly-rated defender. “We did not take any team lightly and I am very happy that we delivered our main target at the end of the day” said Nhlapho. Forward Mgcoyi finished the competition with an impressive four goals to her name and was voted the Player of the Match for the final, thanks to her vibrant performance. “It was a good experience, it was about time that we wrote our history as ladies.” She further stated that the teams were a tougher opposition in comparison to those in the domestic league. “We fought for each other and in the end, we achieved the goal and now the focus shifts back to the Hollywoodbets Super League," added Andisiwe Mgcoyi.
Kgadiete who walked away with the top Goal Scorer Award of the tournament, spoke about the competitiveness of the qualifiers. "It was hard. Playing a game every second day with no rest in between was challenging, but we knew that we just had to give our all. We knew we had to fight till the end to achieve our objectives.” She continued to excitedly outline her personal achievements, “It is a great feeling to be a top goalscorer. It is a cherry on top for me as the main prize was to make sure that we got that ticket to Egypt. Now that we have it, we must work harder to prepare for the main tournament and we must also resume our domestic league in the same dominant fashion". Melinda Kgadiete was selected to represent the national squad after her brilliant performance in COSAFA women's championshipThe quiet goal poacher described the feelings of the team when the referee blew the final whistle. "I couldn't wait for the game to finish. When it was done, we knew the mission was accomplished".
Recounting the words of encouragement from the Club Chairman, Nhlapo said "The day we left for the tournament, Chairman Tlhopie Motsepe told us that we are not there representing only ourselves, but the masses and the young girls who look up to us. Coach Jerry Tshabalala also emphasised that we must always know that we represent the brand of Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club and there are people who depend on us for inspiration. It was our mission to make sure that we maintain the standard of the club and break barriers," said Nhlapho. Coach Jerry "Kapa" TshabalalaA place in the continental showpiece has been attained and after overcoming the first hurdle, Banyana Ba Style will be hoping to emulate their male counterparts who conquered the continent in 2016. The Brazilians will represent the Southern African region in the maiden edition of the continental showpiece which takes place in Egypt later this year. Eight teams from the CAF regions are expected to compete in the continent’s premier women’s tournament. After conquering and still dominating the Hollywoodbets Super League, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies are battle-ready to transform their domestic dominance into continental success.