30 May 2019 – When the head coach of Banyana Banyana announced her final squad of 23 players for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, not many expected an uncapped player in the squad.
In fact she named two players who have never kicked a ball for Banyana Banyana in a match – goalkeeper Mapaseka Mpuru and defender Bongeka Gamede. Both were teammates at junior level in the U-17 and U-20 Women’s National Teams before taking different paths in life.
The duo has now been reunited at Banyana Banyana.
Gamede was first called up to the Banyana Banyana camp in April ahead of the friendly against Jamaica in Durban.
“It was the happiest day of my life. The first message I got was from Thembi (Kgatlana) saying to me that the time has come for me to shine, adding that what remained was the hard work ahead. Leandra (Smeda), Kholosa (Biyana) and Linda (Motlhalo) also made contact with me and congratulated me for my call-up,” said Gamede.
She retained her place in the following training camp ahead of the squad’s travel to the USA to take on the world champions in Santa Clara, California.
“As I have been in the junior national teams, I have travelled a bit but it was the first time I went out of the continent when we went to the USA, and I learnt a lot from that trip – most importantly how the USA played and also got to see first hand how Banyana Banyana played when faced with top class opposition,” added Gamede.
Shortly upon the squad’s return from the USA, Ellis announced her squad – and her name was on the list.
“I can’t say I doubt myself, but I had thoughts going through my head that as I have never played for the national team before, and there are many who have played before me, was my name going to be included on the list? But it shows that each day when you work hard you make an impact in one way or the other,” said the player commonly know as Smah.
“I am very happy to have been selected and this means that our dreams as young players are becoming a reality, slowly but surely – the selection shows that the Lord works in mysterious ways. I am ecstatic to be here. It was a dream of mine that one day I would see my name on the list of players going to the world Cup, but it came sooner than expected.”
Gamede says she has always looked up to the likes of Mamello Makhabane – the Banyana Banyana midfield workhorse and playmaker.
“I am happy because when I was growing up, I have always been a big fan of Mamello Makhabane – and my dream was that I would not like to see her retire before I share the field with her and wear the same uniform as her, spend time with her and just talk to her. That I am doing it now has made me very happy,” said Gamede.
“I always talk to her about many things, and as I am a student she always asks me how my studies are going or when we return from training she asks me how it was and she shares ideas with me.”
The first year student of Tourism Management at the University of the Western Cape has had to put her studies aside for this period while she focuses on the World Cup.
“As a student I had to be sitting for my mid-year exams and finish on 3 June 2019 – but I have had to sacrifice that to be here (France). I will write when I return from the tournament. But the most important thing is that the Banyana Banyana programme has been drafted such that there is still a lot of time to study during the camp and it does not really hinder my progress,” added Smah.
“I can tell you now that whatever you want in life you have to work for it – in the case of football you have to sacrifice and make time for both football and your studies. It’s up to an individual to get the balance correct.”
Her wish for the upcoming world cup is that “we play well as a team and win, and should an opportunity arise, to play in the tournament and show my talent.”
Banyana Banyana will complete their world cup preparations with a friendly match against Norway on Sunday, 2 June in Amiens, before travelling to Le Havre where they will face Spain in their opening match of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
BONGEKA SMANGELE GAMEDE FACTFILE:
DOB: 22 MAY 1999
POB: IXOPO (KZN)
CLUB: UWC LADIES (UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN CAPE)