Johannesburg – So close and yet so far! Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies’ team must keep their chin-up despite failing to defend their African crown on Sunday night out in Morocco.
Sundowns made history last season, becoming the first team to win the CAF Women’s Champions League tournament in Egypt.
That was a deserving win. They qualified for the competition via winning the Cosafa Cup, while they were two-time successive Super League queens.
And after wrapping up their third title they were expected to defend their title.
They looked the part at first, breezing through the group stage as they scored a whooping 11 goals and conceded only one against their three opponents.
Sure, the knockout stage was going to be a different kettle of fish, given that the four teams that made the semi-finals were deserving champions.
But a sumptuous Boitumelo Rabale goal against the Simba Queens was enough to secure Sundowns their second successive continental final in Rabat.
— Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies Team (@SundownsLadies) November 13, 2022
However, when it mattered the most, coach Jerry Tshabalala’s team stuttered as they were thrashed 4-0 by host club AS FAR on home soil in Rabat.
Sure, there were factors that played into Downs’ loss, including losing Rhoda Mulaudzi and captain Zanele Nhlapho, who were sent for early showers.
But they shouldn’t cry over spilt milk. Instead, they must learn valuable lessons from their shortcomings, while remaining proud of their efforts.
It is a rare occurrence that a team is able to make successive continental finals and players such as Thalea Smidt, Andile Dlamini and Bambani Mbane should also use the experience to improve Banyana Banyana heading to the World Cup.
Yes, Banyana are not expected to be any match for Group G opponents Argentina, Sweden and Italy but they have to show improvements from 2019.
It can’t be that the three teams will head to New Zealand and Australia with assurance that they'll scoop three points against the African Queens.
— #CAFWCL (@CAFwomen) November 13, 2022
Downs’ players must look at their run in Morocco as a step in the right direction, especially in their aspirations to play for better and more professional clubs.
Lelona Daweti was the best player in the group stage, scoring four goals in three games. So why not focus on such positives rather than the negatives?
Daweti is only 23, but there’s nothing that’s stopping her from plotting her way to becoming a Banyana regular ahead of the World Cup.
Tshabalala, moreover, can only grow from such experiences. That he shared the podium for the African Coach of the Year was not a fluke at all.
Sure, he lost out to Banyana coach Desiree Ellis, but the duo have worked tirelessly in ensuring that women’s football is what it is in the country today.
So Sundowns should be proud of their exploits in Morocco, while corporations should really look into investing in women’s football. It’s about time …