Silver is just first step for Banyana
BEATING Nigeria for the first time and getting a silver medal at the African Women's Championship means Banyana Banyana have started to climb the ladder in women's football.
This is the view of coach Joseph Mkhonza after the team were given a heroes' welcome by South African soccer lovers yesterday.
Fans filled the international arrivals hall of OR Tambo International Airport to welcome Banyana home.
Some blew vuvuzelas and whistles and beat drums to welcome captain Amanda Dlamini and the team following a job well done in Equatorial Guinea.
Banyana lost 4-0 to the hosts in the final in Malabo on Sunday night.
In addition to the silver medal, Banyana won the fair play trophy. Safa president Kirsten Nematandani described the two achievements as highly commendable.
"We would like to thank South Africa for their support. It was incredible," said Mkhonza.
"We would have loved to win gold, but silver is better than nothing.
"A big thank you to Safa and sponsors Sasol for agreeing to our request for training camps and international friendlies to prepare for the tournament.
"We were able to do well in Equatorial Guinea because we had enough time to prepare the team. There is no turning back after this success," said Mkhonza.
"We have laid a solid foundation to start thinking big and winning competitions. We are now going to plan for the 2015 Women's World Cup and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics."
Dlamini described 2012 as a memorable year for Banyana.
"It has been a great one for us, going to the Olympic Games for the first time and winning a silver medal in Equatorial Guinea.
"In the same tournament, we were also able to beat Nigeria for the first time since the formation of Banyana Banyana in 1993.
"Our coach [Mkhonza] also won the national coach of the year [award]. We also want to thank South Africa, including Anastasia Tsichlas, Fran Hilton-Smith and many other people who laid a foundation for women's soccer [in South Africa]," Dlamini said.
Outgoing Safa CEO Robin Petersen was also there, together with his successor, Dennis Mumble.