23 September 2017 – When Banyana Banyana scored the third goal against Zambia to restore parity in a match where they were trailing 3-0, the scorer of the goal was none other than Rhoda Mulaudzi.
The forward got off the bench and simply delivered by hitting the back of the net in the 84th minute – she had come on 31 minutes earlier.
Leandra Smeda had already scored two goals to keep the team alive in the match, but the equaliser gave them hope of victory as it forced the match to the penalty shootout, which the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana won 5-3.
Mulaudzi sat down with SAFA Media to explain what happened in the final 15 minutes of the match.
Matlhomola Morake: Everyone talks about Banyana Banyana’s dramatic comeback, but perhaps the crucial moment is when you scored the equaliser. Take us through that moment.
Rhoda Mulaudzi: Firstly, when you are on the bench and the team is trailing 2-0, it’s a bit difficult going on as a substitute because everyone is expecting you to bring some changes. But I remember the 2016 Olympic qualifier against Kenya in Nairobi, we needed just one goal to proceed to the next round and I scored that needed goal. This time again it was between my God and me. We always talk about faith, so I said to God please show me that you are alive. When I entered the field I was very nervous, but I told myself we need just three goals to win the match. Soon afterwards I got a chance to score but I could not and I never gave up.
Then Zambia scored the third goal and I didn’t know what to say, and I just stood at the centre and I asked God what was happening. When I checked the clock, it was the 75th minute and now we needed to score three to equalise and four to win. When we scored our first goal, I didn’t celebrate with Leandra (Smeda) the goal scorer – I took the ball from the net and ran to the centre, just to show God that we really wanted this. The second goal came, and still I did not celebrate – again I grabbed the ball and placed it at the centre because time was not on our side and we still needed another goal to have any say in the match.
Refiloe (Jane) then looked at me and said, ‘my friend just one goal please, make it happen’. Because I believe, I said it’s fine will get that goal.
A ball was played forward through to Thembi (Kgatlana), and I thought she was not going to get it, but when she managed to control it nicely, I was still at the center circle and a voice said to me just run to the opposition box and don’t stop, and don’t drop your pace – just run until you get there. I did just that, and Kgatlana sent in a cross – the ball passed between Refiloe and the Zambia goalkeeper, it came to me and I knew it was done. I scored and started celebrating and at the same time thanking God for what He has done. Every night we have a prayer session in camp and I believe it is God who gave us the strength, energy and power to come back and win the match – so with faith and belief you can go achieve a lot. We would not have achieved this without divine intervention.
MM: So has the feeling sunk in?
RM: If still feels like a dream, what happened in that match is just unreal and unbelievable. You can’t help but think about it every second because we scored three goals in nine minutes – what does that say to us? It simply means that normally we want to see God with the naked eye, but what happened against Zambia showed us He is alive.
MM: After scoring what were you thinking?
RM: To be honest I don’t know. I was just filled with emotions. As I was running to the corner to celebrate I said it is done, mission accomplished for the day. This was a good advertisement for women’s football and I am almost certain that SAFA and our sponsor Sasol are happy with the turn of events. I know that when we were 3-0 down everyone was saying we are used to them, they always flatter to deceive. But with the comeback we showed the nation that we can do this, just as long as we have support from everyone.
MM: At 3-3 did you still believe that victory was possible?
RM: Yes I did. What came to my mind was that I don’t think God can bring us so far to the penalty shootout and let us lose, it wasn’t going to happen.
MM: We have a difficult clash against Zimbabwe in the final.
RM: That is going to be a very tough affair because they will have their fans supporting them all the way, but in my view if we have the same belief we had against Zambia, nothing is impossible. If we bring our A game on the day, we can turn their fans into our supporters and I believe in my team.
MM: After that dramatic comeback, do you still have it in you to take it a just a notch higher to win gold?
RM: Yes we do, but like I said it is not going to be easy. We have the belief and the support of each other so I have a strong feeling it will happen. I am confident we will do well.