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We’ve learnt our lesson

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Banyana defender says they are a much better team now than they were at the World Cup

Banyana Banyanas Bambanani Mbane says that the team has realised that they cannot rely on certain players and that every player has to come to the party. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix

BANYANA Banyana’s reliable centreback Bambanani Mbane speaks highly of the lessons they learned in the World Cup in France.

The global showpiece was Banyana’s third major competition after making appearances in the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

But in nine matches in those competitions Banyana are yet to win a game with the gulf in class between them and the top nations evident.

They will look to finally win a match in Tokyo next year at the Olympic Games to be played in the Asian country.

But before they can think about Tokyo, they first have to get past Botswana this weekend in the two-legged second round of Olympics qualifiers.

Two more rounds follow with a ticket to Tokyo up for grabs.

“We learned a lot at the World Cup,” Mbane said.

“The most important lesson was that if you don’t take your chances, you will be punished.

“That has helped the team grow which is why everyone was scoring in the Cosafa Cup, from the defenders to the strikers.

“We weren’t reliant on just one person.

“On a personal note, being at the World Cup was a dream come true. It was a big deal.”

Banyana’s clash against Botswana comes a week after the launch of the long-awaited National Women’s League.

Mbane’s Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies kicked off the competition on Saturday at the Nike Centre in Soweto against the University of the Western Cape.

The match ended goalless with both teams cautious in their approach. The league was a huge step in the development of women’s football in the country.

“Tjo! I am very happy about this league finally happening even though we know that it’s not going to be easy,” Mbane said.

“As Celtic we are known as a team that always wins. This is an opportunity for us to showcase that those wins weren’t flukes, but we can do it even when we are playing against the best in the country.

“This will help the players get spotted in the national team. I think that it’s a good platform.”

The league is made up of nine provincial winners of the Sasol League along with the universities’ champions and Bloemfontein Celtic and Mamelodi Sundowns who are the only teams affiliated with professional clubs.

Celtic are the reigning Sasol League National Championships. They have dominated the Free State league to become a consistent feature in the national championships. That dominance will be tested in the national league where they will consistently play strong opponents.

“This will help develop women’s football in the country,” Mbane said. “It will also help the national team. Performing week-in, week-out will raise our confidence.

“This league will also help us to qualify for the Olympics because it will keep us fit. In the Free State we are used to playing against teams that we beat 17-0, this is a good platform to play in a completive environment and that will ultimately make Banyana a stronger team.”