23 December 2023 – The Year 2023 was yet another bumper period for the South African Football Association (SAFA) and its programmes.
Headlining the huge achievements was Banyana Banyana who made history by qualifying for the second round of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, making Desiree Ellis’ charges one of the biggest movers of the year.
Ellis’ side travelled to the FIFA Women’s World Cup as champions of Africa having won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Morocco, where they beat the hosts to lift the continent’s biggest women’s football prize. The Sasol-sponsored side reached the WAFCON final without losing a match and accounted for some of the biggest names on the continent, including Nigeria and Zambia.
At the FIFA Women’s World Cup, they narrowly lost to Sweden, drew with Argentina before beating Italy to advance to the second round. Ellis’ players wrote their name into the history books after they became the first ever South African
National football team, men or women, to make it out of the group stages of a FIFA tournament. The South African senior women’s team defeated Italy 3-2 in their last group match to qualify for the Round of 16, where they unfortunately went down 0-2 to the Netherlands. Those were big moments not just for Banyana Banyana, but also the country and the African continent at large.
To show that winning the WAFCON and reaching the second round of the World Cup was no fluke, Banyana Banyana have once again qualified for the next continental tournament where they will start as defending champions.
At the recently held African Awards, Banyana Banyana were rewarded by having the highest number of players in Africa’s Best XI. Goalkeeper Andile Dlamini, Bambanani Mbane, Lebogang Ramalepe, Linda Mothlalo and Refilwe Jane are all in Africa’s best XI, making 2023 one of the most memorable years for South African women’s football.
At the same awards held in Morocco this month, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies were crowned best African Club of the Year having won the African Club championship in Ivory Coast. They also doubled up by retaining the Hollywood Bets title where they pocketed R2 million in prize money. FIFA President Gianni Infantino congratulated Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies for their achievements this week.
“This title could not have been achieved without the entire team’s hard work, passion and dedication, and everyone at the club can be very proud. Please extend my congratulations to everybody involved in this great achievement. On behalf of the entire football community, I also take this opportunity to thank you and your Association for your contribution to the development and prosperity of women’s football in South Africa and in your region,” said the FIFA President.
Ellis was for the fourth year running named Africa’s Coach of the Year. Completing an amazing year for Ellis, she was honoured by President Cyril Ramaphosa with the Order of Ikhamanga in gold for her contribution to sport. Ellis was one of several recipients who were awarded top honours by President Ramaphosa at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Bryntirion, Pretoria, in April 2023.
Ellis attributed her success to team work and thanked SAFA, the Banyana Banyana players, the members of her technical team, her support staff, the sponsors SASOL and the fans for their support.
“I am very overwhelmed, I will be honest with you, this feels like getting a knighthood,” she said. “I am very grateful, I am very blessed to be able to receive it and I am even more blessed that for the first time at any event my mother was able to come with me. So this is very special.”
Fort Hare University were crowned SASOL League winners and Lindelani were the runners up. To underscore how dominant South Africa were in 2023, the country won both the boys and girls African Schools tournament held in Harare recently while the u15 beat hosts Morocco to win the juniors African title in Rabat, Morocco.
Bafana Bafana will be representing the country at the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Ivory Coast in which Hugo Broos side are expected to make a strong statement. Leading Bafana Bafana’s charge will be newly crowned CAF Club player of the Year Percy Tau, who has been in scintillating form for his Egyptian club Al Ahly.
Tau’s former club, Mamelodi Sundowns continued their dominance on the African scene after winning the inaugural AFL title, beating Morocco side Wydad Casablanca. The South African premiership champions have also been in dominant form both on the domestic and continental front.
On the coaching side, SAFA’s Technical Director Walter Steenbok held a CAF A Licence which was attended by among others, Supersport United’s Gavin Hunt and Steve Barker of Stellenbosch FC.
South African referees also flew the country’s flag in tournaments around the world, with Abongile Tom and Akhona Makalima officiating on the continent and in other parts of the globe.
SAFA President Dr Danny Jordaan, CEO Lydia Monyepao, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Thulani Ngwenya and many others at SAFA House travelled the world in 2023 preaching the South African football story.
After a whirlwind year, SAFA wishes the football family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.