Success in sport requires talent – of that there’s no doubt. Yet, so many times, individuals or teams with an abundance of talent never manage to scale the highest peaks of achievement.
What sets true champions apart is determination and self-belief.
That is exactly what we are seeing in the performances of our feisty Banyana Banyana women’s national football team. On Tuesday night, they qualified, for the first time, for the finals of the Fifa World Cup, by beating Mali 2-0 at the Cape Coast stadium in Ghana in the semifinals of the African Women’s Cup of Nations tournament.
The top three teams in the tournament – and Banyana is still committed to hoisting the African trophy in the final this weekend against Nigeria – all go through to the World Cup finals in France next year.
And that, in itself, may be a good omen for us, considering the men’s team, Bafana Bafana, also qualified for the finals of the World Cup in France back in 1998.
It’s been a long and tough road for Banyana Banyana, some of whose players have been in the national squad for a decade and for whom this will be the highlight of their sporting careers, if not their lives.
Part of that long road has been bumpy, as the women have fought to overcome prejudice and the macho world which is sport in South Africa. This is a place where women footballers get paid a fraction of what men do per game, yet put in as much effort in training. It is a place where gifted players are still occasionally ridiculed for playing what many still believe is a game reserved for men and boys.
Yet, their determination has shone through and now they have given us something to smile about once again, something our men struggle to do.
Fly, Banyana Banyana, fly!