The Banyana effect: History-makers inspire next-gen in promising teen Saaniyah Domingo

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Saaniyah Domingo. (Supplied)
Saaniyah Domingo. (Supplied)
  • Banyana's Women's Africa Cup of Nations win has inspired the next generation of women footballers, such as Espanyol Academy product Saaniyah Domingo.
  • The 15-year-old Joburg-born winger dreams of representing her country, a goal further emphasised by what Desiree Ellis' team did in Morocco.
  • Being part of Espanyol's satellite academy has grown Saaniyah's understanding of the game, which already appears well ahead of her peers.

Banyana Banyana winning the Women's Africa Cup of Nations is still reverberating across the country, months after the team made history in Morocco.

They were the first South African women's team to lift the continental tournament, which their male counterparts Bafana Bafana hoisted in 1996.

The win over hosts Morocco in July marked a seminal moment for the women's game in South Africa, one that's seen head coach Desiree Ellis' charges inspire the next wave of talented girls to grace the pitch.

One such talent is Spanish club RCD Espanyol de Barcelona Academy product Saaniyah Domingo, who could find herself playing in the IberCup, one of the premier youth tournaments in the world, in Barcelona next year.

READ | Rising star Noxolo Cesane: From 'balling with boys, to ushering in new successful Banyana era

Born and bred in Claremont, Johannesburg, the 15-year-old Saaniyah, who plays as a right winger, fell in love with football when she was 9.

She started by tagging along to watch her elder sister Shaziah play soccer at Wits and she got hooked.

"I started getting into soccer when I was 9 and I would go home after that because I couldn't be part of the Wits team with my sister," Saaniyah tells Sport24.

"At home, I'd watch soccer matches on my own and YouTube tutorials on how to do certain skills on the pitch.

"I taught myself how to juggle and all that. When I turned 12, my mom saw that I was starting to get into football more and my aunt told her to send me to SuperSport Soccer Schools.

"That's where I actually developed my skills. They helped me a lot.

"But being the only female there was difficult because the boys thought, 'She's a girl; what does she know about football?'

"But they instilled toughness in me and that made me the player I am, so I'm grateful for that also."

Her dad, a former youth international, Sadick Domingo, also started regaling her with stories of his playing days, and this cemented the sport as her passion.

"When my father was Under-15, he played against the France national team and against [former Chelsea wing] Florent Malouda and he'd tell me all these stories," she says.

"And now that I have an opportunity to play, I just want to make him proud.

"He was part of the reason I wanted to play football and so was my sister. Growing up, having an older sister, you want to do everything your older sibling does.

"You want to impress her. She played at Wits and I wanted to be part of that team but I'm still [too] young.

"She's a left back but I play right wing."

Saaniyah Domingo
Saaniyah Domingo. (Supplied)

Saaniyah is homeschooling and focused entirely on making football her career.

Her mother, Farana, is fully supportive and she has received a sponsorship from fibre technology company Vuma to attend the Espanyol Academy in Johannesburg to to try to make her dreams a reality.

Her belief that she can become a fully-fledged South African international was established after watching Banyana make history in Morocco.

Hildah Magaia scoring twice to clinch the trophy is a memory likely forever etched in her impressionable mind.

"Yes, I want to play for Banyana someday," she says.

"Hard work and dedication are what it will take to get there.

"I was amazed when I watched Banyana Banyana during the Africa Cup of Nations.

"They have opened up many doors for young female footballers in South Africa, to show that the sky is the limit.

"With Hildah scoring those goals, it just showed South African talent and showed young females that they can [have a chance] to showcase their skills.

"What I took from them as well was their teamwork and the way they played, which was phenomenal."

Being part of Espanyol's satellite academy in Johannesburg has grown Saaniyah's understanding of the game, which already sounds well ahead of her peers.

"The methodology right now of how our team trains, it's very intense," she says.

"Trainings are tense. Your fitness must be high, your eating habits need to change. You can't eat the way you want to anymore.

"We learn how to manage the game, pass into space, communicate, when to be on the ball and when not, and especially how to read the game and the speed of play.

"That's what we do every day. As a winger, I do a lot of crossing and shooting practice."

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