All hail the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies!Thomas Kwenaite
By Andile and Mandla Dladla
Few events have contributed to the growth and development of South African women football than the multiple achievements of the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team this year.
They ventured into unknown territory earlier this year and won the COSAFA Club champions league against southern African regional winners. The victory qualified them to represent the region in the CAF African Women Champions League.
It is history that the Chloorkop-based ladies, just like their male counterparts, swept all before them, including the fearsome Ghanaian outfit Hasaacas Ladies whom they defeated 2-0 to become the inaugural CAF Women Champions League winners.
They crowned what had been a truly remarkable year as they won the treble by first retaining the Hollywood Bets South African Super League Championship at the Bidvest Stadium when beating Ma-Indies Ladies 7-0 with striker Andisile Mgcoyi netting six of the magnificent seven.
They won the championship with an incredible 24 wins out of 26 matches, a single draw and a single defeat throughout a season where they scored a remarkable 87 goals while conceding only 14.
We spoke with player assistant coach Agnes Nkosi.
“We are very happy even that we have won the first edition of the Hollywood bets Super League,” said Agnes Nkosi who is a player and assistant coach. “We have worked really hard throughout the campaign and credit must go to the players and technical team.”
The Sundowns team is acutely aware that pressure will mount next year, especially following increasing news that the original Soweto ‘Big Three’ of Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Swallows FC will be forming Ladies teams next year.
As part of Club licensing, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has issued a directive that a club that does not have a Ladies team will no longer be allowed to participate in Pan-African club competitions starting from the 2022 season.
And when approached for comment, SAFA President Danny Jordaan said this directive should not be viewed as punishment to the Soweto Big three, but the trend as far as global football is concerned and gave an example about global brands like Barcelona, AC Milan, Manchester United, Arsenal and many others that have for decades established women teams.
“The pressure is certainly going to increase next season but I am confident that we will be able to defend all three trophies that we won because of the way we work with coach Jerry Tshabalala and the players will be pushed even harder.
“We are going to give the girls a break now so they can recuperate but we will be back early for pre-season as Mamelodi Sundowns is a big team with huge expectations and we do everything the right way.”
Nkosi cautioned players not lose themselves in festive celebrations and forget that they are professionals by over indulging in silly stuff that could result in them gaining unnecessary weight during the off-season but should use the period to rest and still engage in light workouts to keep their bodies in shape.
Nkosi, who holds a CAF C license and led the team to the COSAFA Cup triumph, hinted that the ladies would be given a strict programme to follow throughout the duration of their break and she hoped they will all follow it to the letter.
She could not help but enthuse about 15-year old Lumka Qhekeka who displayed all attributes of a quality striker alongside veteran Andisile Mgcoyi in the final match of the season against Ma-Indies from Limpopo and predicted a bright future for her.
“It really feels amazing how as young as she is especially at only 15-years she is not overawed to be playing alongside great players like Andisiwe Mgcoyi but continues to grow and develop while displaying lots of confidence in the process.”
Head Coach Jerry Tshabalala has been instrumental is their success and could not hide his emotions after his side collected a third title in a trophy laden season as he broke down when we spoke to him.
“We have had a very difficult and exhausting year playing in two major tournaments and leading the log in the Super League,” reflected Tshabalala.
“This trophy (Hollywood Bets Super League) is just reward for all the sacrifices, sweat and tears we have endured this year. We intend to continue with this fighting spirit in next year and many more years to come,” warned Tshabalala.
“We are very proud of the ladies and the dedication they have shown this year,” said Tshabalala who might no longer be allowed to coach the girls beyond 2023 by a directive from the South African Football Association.
According to SAFA President Danny Jordaan, no man shall be allowed to coach a women team starting from 20223 and clubs are given until the end of the 2022 season to make the necessary provisions to employ women in Ladies football.
Jordaan said as an association, they have taken the lead by employing Desiree Ellis (Banyana Banyana), Jabulile Baloyi (Basetsana SA U-20) and Simphiwe Dludlu (Bantwana SA U-17) to empower women and allow them to take charge of women football.
But even without Tshabalala, Sundowns appear to have already laid a foundation in case he is no longer available by sending his deputy (Nkosi) to attend CAF coaching courses and she should seamlessly take over should Tshabalala be forced to step down.