FT's 10 Best Moments of 2018: #4 Banyana writes new history

At FirstTouch, we have a saying that goes like, “a year is never over until we close it.” In the spirit of that ideal, we took our time to look back at the ten most defining moments of 2018, as far as African football is concerned. Could you guess what they are? Ready for number 4?

South Africa line up prior to to the Women's Group E first round match between South Africa and China PR on Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Aug. 5, 2016 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images South America)

South Africa line up prior to to the Women's Group E first round match between South Africa and China PR on Day 1 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 6, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

(Aug. 5, 2016 - Source: Harry How/Getty Images South America)

This happens to be one of the moret recent of moments but easily one of our favorites. The South African football team became the perfect illustration of how women’s football is developing on the continent.

Banyana Banyana which means, “Girls, Girls” in their local dialect were arguably the women’s team of the year in my humble opinion. South Africa blew teams away in the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations qualifiers, which seemed like routine victories but ones that were ushering in the winds of change. With one of the continent’s most respected teams, Cameroon, invited to the COSAFA tournament in Zimbabwe, South Africa went all the way to lift the Southern African glory trophy defeating the She-polopolo of Zambia in the final. It got even more interesting.

The Super Falcons of Nigeria who happen to the most successful women’s team on the continent by winning eight AWCON trophies had made the game predictable and somewhat not so interesting. Thomas Dennerby’s girls still won the ninth title this month but under very different circumstances. They were humbled to a 1-0 defeat by South Africa in their opening match, narrowly booked a finals place by edging the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon on penalties and even triumphing over Banyana also via a penalty shoot-out in the final. All this coupled by some interesting upsets that involved the likes of Mali eliminating the revered tournament hosts, Ghana from the tournament, signal the evolvement of women’s football on the continent as the playing field becomes more level and interesting.

Banyana in particular have a lot to celebrate as they secured their first ever FIFA World Cup qualification guaranteeing them a trip to France next year. Even the balance of power in terms of the most outstanding individual performances usually rooted in the Nigerian camp was not to be. Banyana’s Thembi Kgatlana scooped the top goal scorer award for the 2018 AWCON after some brilliant solo performances.

There are really exciting times ahead as far as the continent’s women football is concerned.

All this coupled by some interesting upsets that involved the likes of Mali eliminating the revered tournament hosts, Ghana from the tournament, signal the evolvement of women’s football on the continent as the playing field becomes more level and interesting.
— Dennis Takaendesa, FirstTouch Africa