The South African U-17 Women’s National Team (Bantwana) is back home after a successful outing in the inaugural 2019 COSAFA Women’s U-17 Championship that was held in Mauritius .
The squad returned home on Monday, 30 September after winning silver following a 2-1 loss to East African guest nation, Uganda in the final played on Sunday (29 September).
Bantwana head coach Simphiwe Dludlu, was however complimentary of her charges despite not bringing the cup home.
“If you had asked me three weeks if we would bring back any medal, I would have said no. These players have really outdone themselves considering that this is a completely new team with the exception of about three players – but they had to quickly be fast-tracked to test themselves to the limit and get to know each other in the process,” said Dludlu.
“What I saw during the tournament has given me hope that there is a lot of talent in this country, all they need is to participate in the competitions for them to get better – and on that score we have to say thank you to the COSAFA U-17 organisers for this inaugural tournament as it helps us a great deal as coaches to build good and strong teams.”
This has been a hectic period for Dudlu who was in charge of the U-20 Women’s National team in the COSAFA about two months ago – where she won bronze. She followed it up with a trip to Morocco with the nearly the same squad for the All Africa Games, and were knocked out in the group stages.
Now she is back where it all started – the U-17 team that she took to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay in 2018.
“We are servants of the game. It’s always good to plough back after years of playing the game. I am just happy to see the many players coming through the system as this augurs well for Banyana Banyana. After years of trying to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we managed to do so in France, so we can’t back down – we have to aim at the next tournament, and tournaments like the COSAFA Cup can only assist in developing players,” added Dludlu.
The former Banyana Banyana captain was also full of praise for her captain – Jessica Wade, who led the team with aplomb and was named Player of the Tournament.
“I don’t like singling out players because the entire team worked hard, even those who were on the bench. But I must say that Jessica is a hard worker, she hates losing and plays with a lot of passion. I have been watching her progress over the years and she is destined for great things. I am so proud of her because as a captain, she led from the front and I am not surprised she managed to score goals and walk away with the top award – Player of the Tournment,” said Dludlu.
“She was also in the U-20 squad that played the COSAFA Cup and you can see that she is gaining a lot of experience with all these games. Young as she is, I will not be surprised if she is called up into the Banyana Banyana squad. I always say we should afford the kids an opportunity to play and they will grow from that – not only that but also they forge more than just friendships.”
Dludlu’s had 11 goalscorers in the tournament who accounted for 28 goals between them in five games – three group stages, semi-final and final.
Oyisa Marhasi was top of the South African charts with 10 goals to her name, followed by Tifanny Kortjie who netted seven time, while Wade chipped in with five.
Tiyana Carollisen, Nabeelah Galant, Sonika Mzingeli and Nelly Gamede had three each, while Christy Noble grabbed two.
There was one goal each from Yoland Nduli, Shakira O’Malley and Hlela Philisani.
South Africa’s loss to Uganda in the final, was their first in the tournament.
They defeated, and also set a tournament record victory of 28-0 over debutants Seychelles. Next up was Botswana, who they brushed aside 5-1, and then went on to beat Madagascar 3-1.
In the semi-final, they were made to sweat for a 2-1 victory against Zambia.
It was in the final where they were stopped in their tracks by Uganda in a hard-fought 2-1 loss at the St Francois Xavier Stadium in Port Louis.
The East African guest nation became just the second visiting team to lift a COSAFA title after Tanzania did likewise in the 2019 COSAFA Women’s Under-20 Championship that was played in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa in August.
It was a tightly contested final in which the Ugandans shaded the chances, but a fitting end to what has been a magnificent tournament in which 158 goals were scored in only 16 matches.
That provided rich entertainment for the enthusiastic crowd, but also vital experience for the players at what is an important introduction to international football in this age-group.
Uganda opened the scoring through Fauzia Najjemba on 56 minutes – the 13th of the tournament for the prolific forward.
Bantwana were level when Nabeelah Galant’s persistence down the right flank saw her cross for substitute Tiffany Kortjie to head home and make it 1-1.
But the East Africans regained the lead with five minutes remaining as Najjemba’s cross was turned home by the prolific Juliet Nalukenge with an expert finish.
In the third/fourth place play-off, Zambia claimed the bronze medal with a comprehensive 3-0 success over Botswana as they got reward for a fine tournament.
South African captain Jessica Wade was named Player of the Tournament for her expert all-round displays that highlight her quality as a real star of the future in the women’s game.
Nalukenge won the Golden Boot prize with an astonishing 18 goals scored in the five games she played, while her teammate Daphine Nyayenga won the Golden Glove for her exploits between the posts.
The next tournament for the region will be the COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship that will be staged in Blantyre, Malawi from October 11-20.
That will be followed by the COSAFA Men’s Under-20 Championship in Zambia from December 4-15, the last of a record six tournament’s hosted by COSAFA in 2019.