Banyana secure London Olympics place
12 September 2011
South Africa's national women's football team, Banyana Banyana, booked their place as one of only two African nations at the 2012 London Olympics when they played to a one-all draw against Ethiopia in muddy conditions in Addis Ababa on Sunday.
South Africa went into the match with a 3-0 advantage after the first leg fixture, which was played in Soweto on 27 August, courtesy of a hat-trick by striker Noko Matlou.
Playing in front of over 15 000 fans, the Ethiopians took the game to Banyana Banyana in the first half, but it ended without a goal.
In the opening minute of the second half, South Africa surged onto the attack. Nompumelelo Nyandeni delivered a cross from the left-hand side, forcing Ethiopian goalkeeper Liya Shibru Ossa to stretch high to collect the ball. After she fell to the ground the Banyana Banyana players protested that the ball had been held over the goal-line by the goalkeeper.
After consulting with an assistant referee, a goal was awarded to the visitors, taking their advantage over the two legs to 4-0.
Banyana Banyana head coach Joseph Mkhonza then made some tactical changes, with Nothando Vilakazi replacing the tough-tackling Yola Jafta in midfield, and Mary Ntsweng taking over in the centre of the park for captain Amanda Dlamini.
With 12 minutes remaining, Banyana Banyana found themselves short of two players when Matlou and left-back defender Gabisile "China" Hlumbane were receiving medical attention off the field. The Ethiopians took advantage of their numeric superiority as Tibyin Mesfin Tameru fired home a shot from the edge of the penalty box to level the scores on the day.
Matlou, who was closely marked and continuously tackled down into the mud throughout the match, was replaced by Sasol League National Championships Player's Player of the Tournament, midfielder Sanah Mollo late in the game.
As the final whistle blew to signify South Africa's qualification for the 2012 Olympic showpiece, the Banyana Banyana team put on "London Here We Come" T-shirts and ran towards the 150-odd South African supporters in the grandstand, chanting songs of celebration.
"This will be Banyana Banyana's first appearance at the Olympics since the team came into being in 1993 and the joy on the players' faces is a sign of how much this moment means to them," coach Mkhonza said afterwards.
"We knew it would be tough playing Ethiopia in front of their home crowd, but our sponsor Sasol and Safa must be thanked for their commitment towards giving us a large number of camps and matches in 2011 to prepare for this moment.
"The fact that Banyana Banyana could hold their own in fielding two teams on the same day, here in Ethiopia and at the All-Africa Games in Mozambique, is a sign of the depth that has been created in women’s football in South Africa," he added.
The victory improved Banyana's record in 2011 to 12 wins, two defeats, and one draw in 15 matches.