All Set To Goal: Africa At Women’s World Cup

Published 2 months ago
Women’s International Friendly: South Africa v Brazil
(Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Focus is now quickly switching to the African nations taking part in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Key to Banyana Banyana’s chances is livewire goalkeeper Andile Dlamini.

By Nick Said

The recent World Cup in Qatar has been a massive boost for African football and provided a newfound respect for the game on the continent from a skeptical watching world. Morocco’s historic run to the semifinals was coupled with victory for Tunisia over France, and Cameroon against Brazil, results that stunned fans across the globe. Focus will quickly now switch to the African nations who will take part in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup that will be staged in Australia and New Zealand, where South Africa, Zambia, Nigeria and Morocco will carry the hopes of the continent.

For Banyana Banyana, it is a second successive visit to the global showpiece competition, having debuted in France in 2019, where they were placed on a steep learning curve but will have taken much from that experience into this latest edition.

They have a bit of a horror draw in the group stage though. Sweden were runners-up at the 2003 World Cup and have won bronze on three other occasions, including last time out in France.

They have also won the silver medal at the last two Olympic Games.

Italy are ranked number 17 in the world and were quarterfinalists four years ago, though perhaps Banyana midfielder Refiloe Jane, who has been based in that country for the last few years, will be able to add some insight.

Argentina are appearing at a fourth World Cup but have yet to get past the group stages, so may be the team Banyana should target. They are ranked 29 in the world, still well ahead of South Africa’s 54.

Key to Banyana’s chances is livewire goalkeeper Andile Dlamini, 30, now a veteran of the side having made her debut back in 2011.

“Our group is a very tough one, but we are also a tough team to beat,” she tells FORBES AFRICA confidently. “We are fighting for women’s football in Africa.”

Dlamini was a star as South Africa won the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, a maiden continental gold medal, and says this is a team very much on the up.

“We told ourselves we wanted to win the Afcon and we did that. We are in a good space mentally, even if we know it is going to be a tough World Cup. Those three teams have a whole lot more experience in their squad with players who play professionally day in and day out.

“We haven’t had a professional league in our country, but our mentality is in the right space and we do the extra work needed to pick up a little bit [more quality]. One thing I can promise, it is not going to be easy for anyone in the group.”

Dlamini understands that it is not just about competing for a trophy at the World Cup. Especially in Africa, it means so much more.

“We will perform to the best of our abilities because we know there is that girl child watching and saying, ‘I want to be a Banyana player one day’. We are going to the World Cup to show that child what is possible.

“We know this is true, because being at the World Cup in 2019 changed not only how aspiring soccer players saw us, but also brands. We saw sponsors come forward and want to be involved in women’s football.

“Being seen there encourages that young girl or boy from the hood to say, ‘it is possible.

If Andile has done it, then so can I. Even without the best facilities or equipment, I can do it’. We want to show those young children that football can change your life.”

Banyana will be based in Wellington in New Zealand during the pool phase and open their campaign against Sweden on July 23.

“Performing at that huge stage encourages you as a footballer,” Dlamini says. “You don’t want to disappoint those people who have always supported you. I take motivation from that.”