Former Banyana Banyana player Lydia Monyepao has congratulated the current generation for booking a spot at the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup for the first time in their history.
Monyepao told Goal that she is delighted for coach Desiree Ellis and her gallant charges after they beat Mali 2-0 in their 2018 Africa Women's Cup of Nations semi-final on Tuesday to reach the final and subsequently seal a spot at the global showpiece in France next year.
“I am excited, overwhelmed and I’m really proud of the girls and their qualification for France 2019. They really deserved this,” Monyepao told Goal.
“The current crop of Banyana Banyana players achieved something big for all the former players that got so close to qualification but never actually made it, and also all the current players that have tried over and over again to qualify with not much success,” she added.
“This is massive for all these players. I must really give credit to the sponsor, Sasol, that stayed with the team and continued to invest in women’s football despite the previous failures to qualify for the World Cup,” said the legend.
“They are finally reaping what they sowed and credit again to Sasol and Safa for preparing this team adequately for this tournament. It goes a long way. May this continue into the future,” said a jovial Monyepao .
Ahead of the Awcon final on Saturday against Nigeria who Banyana defeated in their Group B opener via a 1-0 scoreline, Monyepao said the girls must give their best and forget about the previous win over the Super Falcons.
“I think for now, the girls should celebrate their victory and the history that they have now made with their first ever qualification,” she continued.
“From Thursday, it’s back to the Awcon final where they can start visualising their final game against Nigeria, looking at the videos for analysis, preparing and coming up with a game plan for Saturday," she urged.
“The group result against the Super Falcons should be completely erased from their mind-set, except for the extra motivation to say we can do this if we believe," she added.
“Saturday will be a totally different game and everyone is starting from 0-0, so the girls will need to take their fighting spirit back to Accra and play like their lives depend on it,” she continued.
As Ellis and her team are fighting to end Nigeria's dominance when it comes to Awcon trophies, Banyana are also chasing their maiden continental crown and Monyepao has backed the team to make history on Saturday.
“With the France qualification already out of the way for the country as a whole, now the girls should focus on the ultimate prize that remains – lifting the trophy for the first time ever and the promised monetary prize they stand to gain for themselves and their families,” she reacted.
“Women’s football in this country is not a profession where one can make money from on a monthly basis so they need to capitalise on this – earning as much as they can from this tournament,” she said.
“That should be motivation enough to take to that game on Saturday. We wish them the best for Saturday….they must give their best and leave the rest to the Man above (God),” she urged.
Moreover, Monyepao also thanked the South African Football Association (Safa) for keeping faith in Ellis and rewarding her with a permanent contract.
“I could not be happier that this qualification happened not only under a local coach but a former player as well. It will boost the morale of many local coaches, both men and women, remember that Bafana Bafana also qualified for their first ever World Cup in 1998 under a local coach in Clive Barker," she told Goal.
“We need to give credit to Safa for finally giving coach Desiree that permanent contract and giving her the support she needs to take this team forward with the international friendlies against Sweden and Chile,” concluded Monyepao.
Meanwhile, this year's Awcon final will be staged on Saturday evening, December 01 at 18:00 in Ghana.