Banyana Banyana trio, interim coach Desiree Ellis and star attackers Leandra Smeda and Thembi Kgatalana have reflected on the side’s recent Cosafa Cup triumph in Zimbabwe over the weekend.
Former Banyana captain, Ellis, made history by becoming the first South African – male and female – to win the Cosafa Women’s Championship both as a player and a coach while Smeda and Kgatlana both dazzled on their maiden Cosafa experience.
Ellis led Banyana to their fourth victory in the competition when they defeated hosts Zimbabwe 2-1 in an exciting final played on Sunday at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.
This was her second gold medal after she won her first back in 2002 as a national team player.
“That was such a long time ago, but yes it does feel special. I did not in my wildest dreams think that this could happen to me, and coming to this tournament that was the furthest thing on my mind,” an overwhelmed Elles encountered after the historic triumph.
“Even though I am excited with what I have achieved, the credit should go to the players because they worked hard for it. Some players may not come back to this team but they have something to shout about, they have created memories for themselves – it is not about me but the whole group. I will, however, cherish this for a long time to come,” she added.
Cape Town based duo Smeda and Kgatlana – of UWC Ladies FC- were both instrumental for Banyana. They both scored four goals apiece in the competition including in the final.
“This is the first time I’ve scored four goals in any tournament since playing for Banyana,” Smeda said.
“This is also the only Cosafa tournament I have played in since my involvement in the national setup and to win it in my first participation here, it’s just amazing.
"Everybody in the team is very excited about how we performed. However, we can only hope that we’ll get better and build on this performance going into next year’s Women’s Afcon qualifiers.
21-year-old Kgatlana was also voted the Player of the Tournament and says that she is proud that her hard work is reaping rewards.
“I feel great and I feel humbled at the same time because when Zimbabwe scored, we thought it was gone, Kgatlana said.
“And the crowd was cheering them all the way. But I like the courage and the braveness to show that Cosafa belongs to us and we did it.
“This is something that I aimed for and I’m just pleased that I was able to get what I had targeted from the beginning of this championship.
“This goes to show that nothing beats hard work, and to win it (the Player of the Tournament accolade) after having helped the national side win this year’s Cosafa Women’s Championship final, makes it all sweeter.
“Looking at our final game against Zimbabwe, we dominated them for best good part of that match. It is only those lapses of concentration at the back which got to us, and they were able to secure a comeback goal to make it 1-1. But other than that, we were just superb on the day.
“What’s most important is we are this year’s Cosafa champions and that’s what makes me really happy. We achieved the goal we had set for ourselves to reach from the onset.