After Rio exit, Banyana set sights on African champs

Banyana Banyana have learnt valuable lessons at the 2016 Rio Olympics, says Sanah Mollo, a veteran of two Olympic Games with the team. 

Mollo – who was part of the Banyana team that failed to win a single game at the 2012 London Olympics and collected just one point and scored one goal – said all is not lost for women’s football. 

“We have nothing to be ashamed of,” she said after Banyana were knocked out of this year’s competition. “Losing to Sweden and China is not an embarrassment. We are on the right track; we don’t have a professional league and they have world-class players and we don’t. Being out of the Olympics is not a train smash.”

Banyana played to a goalless draw against hosts Brazil in the early hours of this morning, their best result in the tournament. This means the team finishes on one point, with two losses and no goals. 

Banyana lost their first two games against Sweden (1-0) and China (2-0) to bow out of the Games. They saved some face by drawing with Brazil, even though the hosts rested several first-team players. 

But Mollo is still optimistic that women’s football is on the right track in South Africa. 

She said that Banyana would bounce back stronger and qualify for the Fifa Women’s World Cup, to be held in France in 2019. The World Cup is the only major event that Banyana have never qualified for, but Mollo is optimistic that they will make it to the eight edition. 

But before the World Cup, Banyana’s next assignment is the African Women’s Championships, scheduled to take place from November 19 to December 3 in Cameroon. 

Banyana have never won the African title but have lost in the final on two occasions. Mollo says that the time has come for them to end that drought and win their first continental title.

“We can still make this year a great one by winning the African Champs, we certainly have the potential to do that. And we will go for it.”

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