South African football in 2011
22 December 2011
Two teams shone in South African football in 2011: the national women's team, Banyana Banyana, and Orlando Pirates, who dominated the club scene.
Banyana' success was reflected in the team's Confederation of African Football (Caf) nomination as African Women's Football Team of the Year. One of the main reasons for that was the team's qualification for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Only 12 places are open to women's teams at the Olympic Games, with just two African teams among them, and those places went to South Africa and Cameroon.
Banyana had previously never qualified for the Olympic Games.
They had a busy year in 2011. Apart from qualifying games for the London Olympics, they were also involved in the All Africa Games and Cosafa Women's Championship.
In total they played 18 matches, won 12 of them, lost only four, and drew two. They scored 36 goals and conceded 15.
Star striker Noko Matlou was named South African Sportswoman of the Year in August, while her fellow striker Nompumelelo Nyandeni was nominated for the Caf Women's Player of the Year award.
In club football, Orlando Pirates enjoyed one of the finest years in their fine history.
It began in October 2010 when they broke a 10-year title drought in knockout competition by capturing the MTN 8 after a penalty shootout win over Moroka Swallows. It earned the club the biggest reward in its history of R8-million.
Kaizer Chiefs crushed Pirates 3-0 in December 2010 to lift the Telkom Cup, but that proved to be but a small blip as the Buccaneers went on a winning run which by December 2011 would be unequalled in the history of South African football.
In May, Pirates claimed the Premier Soccer League title after a down-to-the-wire race for the honours.
Heading into the last round of matches, Ajax Cape Town led Pirates, in second, by two points, while Kaizer Chiefs were three points off the pace, and in need of losses by the two clubs in front of them to claim the silverware.
Ajax drew 2-2 with Maritzburg United, while Pirates beat Golden Arrows 2-1, leaving Chiefs out of the running for the title. With both Ajax and Pirates on 60 points, the Buccaneers claimed the title on goal difference.
"I saw my team this season bouncing back after some big defeats and we were coming back in the race for the championship and only big teams can do that and that is the consistency that you need to win something," coach Ruud Krol told the Orlando Pirates' website afterwards.
The Soweto giant's title ended a run of three in a row for SuperSport United.
Shortly after that, Pirates completed a remarkable treble when they beat Black Leopards 3-1 to capture the Nedbank Cup. The club's players rallied around coach Ruud Krol, who was out of contract, to show their support for him.
It wasn't enough as the club, incredibly, chose not to renew the Dutch coach's contract.
At the annual PSL Awards, the Buccaneers' Andile Jali was named Nedbank Cup Player of the Tournament, while Krol was named Coach of the Season. The Chairman's Award went to Pirates' captain Lucky Lekgwathi.
Footballer of the Year
However, the big winner on the night was Thulani Serero of Ajax Cape Town. He was named Footballer of the Year, the Absa Premiership Player of the Year, the Players' Player of the Year, and the Red Hot Young Player of the Season.
Ajax Cape Town's big brother club, Ajax Amsterdam, recognised Serero's excellence by signing him to four-year contract.
For Bafana Bafana, the national men's team, 2011 tailed off into disappointment after a promising start.
It began with a 2-0 win over Kenya in a friendly in Rustenburg. After that, a last-gasp goal by Katlego Mphela took Bafana to a 1-0 victory over Egypt in Johannesburg in an African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier.
An experimental line-up defeated Tanzania 1-0 in Dar Es Salaam in a friendly ahead of the big return match against Egypt in the Afcon qualifiers. A goalless draw in Cairo ended the qualification hopes of the three-time defending champion Pharaohs and kept Bafana top of their qualifying group.
Bafana's preparation for their second last qualifier went well when they outplayed Burkina Faso 3-0 in Johannesburg in a friendly. Unfortunately that stood for nothing when they went down 2-1 to Niger in Niamey and fell from the top of their group standings.
South Africa faced Sierra Leone in their last qualifying game, figuring they needed only a draw to advance to the Afcon finals. Embarrassingly for the South African Football Association, that was wrong.
After a 1-1 draw with the Leone Stars, the players celebrated qualifying for the continental finals on goal difference. The rules governing qualification, however, stated that in the case of a tie on points, the head-to-head record between the teams – in this case there were three: South Africa, Niger, and Sierra Leone – would decide who would advance. That turned out to be Niger despite the fact that they had the worst goal difference of the three teams.
Nelson Mandela Challenge
Bafana regained a measure of pride by holding Africa's highest ranked team Cote D'Ivoire to a 1-1 draw in the Nelson Mandela Challenge, but the year ended on a downer a matter of days later when Zimbabwe scored a 2-1 win over them in Harare.
On a positive note, a long running dispute about the naming rights for Bafana Bafana was resolved, leaving the national team in the clear to retain their name.
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