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Banyana Banyana

You Go Girls

by Moby Mayibuye / 16.09.2010

The sporting world is going through a bit of a revolution. Apparently Tiger Woods can’t play golf anymore. De Villiers has a better chance of winning the lottery than keeping his job and the Pakistan cricket team are ‘entrepreneurs’. The sports addict in me was looking for entertainment. Whilst I’m a passionate football fan it would be misleading to suggest ladies football is on my radar. Its not quite beach volleyball is it? Despite my general lack of interest, when I see green and gold there is a sort of emotional trigger. My senses overload with nationalism. I could probably even watch the national lawn bowls team (for like twenty minutes). South Africa fever. Blame the last glowing embers of the Wereld Beker.

Anyway, I was hooked when I read about the possibility of Bafana being outdone by the Bantwana (under 17 girls) team. The girls secured qualification for the first time in South Africa’s history. The reward? A ticket to Fifa’s u17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.

They qualified comfortably for the tournament. There was optimism all round. First National Bank threw their weight behind the girls and wrote a cheque for R1 million to help the squad limber up and prepare. Leslie Sedibe, Safa CEO, stated, ”We are doing our utmost best to ensure the Under-17 women’s national team are razor-sharp for the World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.” So no surprises from Leslie then!

En route to the islands, they popped into England and defeated their English counterparts, in Birmingham, 4-1 in the first encounter – and drew the second.

My only objection is the default Safa rah-rah mandate that our teams feel a sense of inflated confidence pre-tournament. Was it warranted this time? Bantwana had qualified while the closest those poor English girls would come to the spectacle would be on television. Was this going to be a Road to Glory for our girls?

Trinidad and Tobago is a misleading host. I imagine tall West Indian fast bowlers running in and unleashing balls at illegal speeds. Or in the case of Pakistani bowlers, unleashing no balls. I digress. But it’s probably a place like any other. Only hotter and brighter. With better accents. And rum.

When not at the cricket, or soccer, I imagine I would walk the warm beach sand, smell the fresh ocean and sink cocktails. A paradise of sorts, my mind drifts, your body tingles, all the while digesting the human heat factor, as you do on Caribbean beaches. I couldn’t get those poor English girls out of my mind either. Freezing and defeated. This, sun and sea, a world away from the frozen Dwight Yorke Stadium. Named after the former Manchester United player allegedly best remembered, in both Manchester and Sydney, for his scoring exploits off the pitch.

Anyway, Bantwana met Korea in their opening game. The final result was a 3-1 loss. Post-match, the coach Solomon Luvhengo said, “Scoring goals is not something you work on; you either take your chances or you don’t. We had plenty of chances against the Koreans and we failed to take them.” A puzzling analysis. Surely scoring goals is a skill that can be trained? Perhaps his message was lost in translation.

Their second match was against ze Germans. The Germans had already humbled Mexico 9-0. When Trevor Noah said, “We don’t spank, we beat” this is what he meant. Germany outgunned Bantwana 10 -1. They were 9 -1 down at half time. Shell shocked. An improved second half performance resulted in only one further goal. I can empathize. Perhaps Solly Luvhengo will reflect on his confident pre-tournament statement, ”Were not going there on holiday.”

The girls are set to play Mexico on Sunday in a game really about restoring a smidgeon of national pride. I wish them all the best. In the meantime, I’m going to stick to what I know best – beach volleyball. While I’m at it, I may even book a holiday to Trinidad and Tobago.

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