In high spirits, Banyana Stars embarked on their journey to the Women’s World Cup Down Under. Clad in the colors of the nation, their growth in stature over the past years should have made them easily recognizable from afar.
The airport, once brought to a standstill when the women’s senior national football team qualified for their first-ever World Cup and triumphed in Wafcon within a three-year span, failed to give them the hero’s send-off they truly deserved.
A standoff between Banyana Banyana and Safa emerged during their preparations for their second global finals appearance in Australia and New Zealand.
Their requests for appropriate measures, such as a send-off match and financial support for their World Cup campaign, had led to an issue with the governing body.
Fortunately, the Motsepe Foundation, Ithuba, and ANCYL stepped in with timely financial assistance, clearing the previously muddied waters just before their departure to New Zealand on Wednesday.
However, the resolution of the matter did not immediately restore peace after the three bodies mediated between Banyana Banyana and Safa earlier that day.
The first group of players who flew out after the resolution wore expressions of unhappiness and fatigue, prompting curious inquiries from passing tourists, locals, and airport staff who were unaware of their identity.
But on Thursday, as the second group prepared for departure, their mood lightened, and smiles adorned their faces. The masses, including a security guard who exclaimed, “we love you Banyana, make us proud,” took notice of the team.
Unlike the first batch, this time selfies became a means to pass the time, led by Andile Dlamini, who not only dominates the footballing world but also won the prestigious SA Sport Star of the Year award.
Kaylian Swart expressed her joy that the storm between Banyana Banyana and Safa had subsided, at least for now, as she eagerly anticipated her record-breaking third World Cup appearance as a player.
Swart had previously represented South Africa in the U17 category in 2010 and played for Banyana in 2019. “The excitement is real now—obviously the last couple of days have been hectic for us. Being at the airport and ready to board that plane is incredibly exciting,” said the Bafana second-choice goalkeeper.
Despite the recent hardships, Swart believes Banyana Banyana can spring a surprise in Group G, where they will face formidable opponents such as Sweden, Argentina, and Italy.
Drawing inspiration from their former slogan with chief sponsors Sasol, she said, “I think we’ve honed our character. Our chemistry is unparalleled, and our unity is unparalleled. We fight for each other. If we maintain that spirit, the possibilities are endless for us.”
Safpu, true to their word, stood by Banyana Banyana until the end. Safpu President Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe and Secretary General Nhlanhla Shabalala were present at the airport to bid the team farewell.
“I believe the victory belongs to the ladies,” Gaoshubelwe stated. “We are pleased because they have managed to at least compel Safa to meet the bare minimum—a fight they should never have had to wage”
“As a nation, it’s disheartening to witness the absence of a proper send-off due to the lack of support from our association. Nonetheless, we are happy that they are on their way.” She added.