Salgado feels there’s no stopping Banyana in final qualifier

Gabriela Salgado of South Africa. | BackpagePix

Gabriela Salgado of South Africa. | BackpagePix

Published Apr 3, 2024



“There’s nothing that can stop us!”

That was the bold claim of Banyana Banyana attacker Gabriela Salgado ahead of the team’s final Olympic qualifier first-leg clash with Nigeria in Abuja on Friday. The return leg is in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Gabriela Salgado of South Africa. | BackpagePix

Recent achievements have heightened expectations that SA will emerge victorious and make the Games in Paris in July and August. After all, Banyana won the last edition of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and qualified for back-to-back World Cups in 2019 and 2023.

However, that’s easier said than done.

Desiree Ellis has settled on a Banyana side boasting seven overseas-based players. | BackpagePix

Coach Desiree Ellis has most of her regulars available for selection and has settled on a side boasting seven overseas-based players, include returning captain Refiloe Jane.

In contrast, her opposite number, Randy Waldrum, has named only two locally-based players in the 22-member squad.

But having already settled in Nigeria after landing on Sunday, training Monday and yesterday, Salgado said they know what’s expected of them.

“We all know how important this game is – both teams want to qualify for the Olympics after missing out on the previous one,” she said.

“So, it’s massive giants playing against each other. As we are African champs, we need to go out and show everyone we deserve to qualify for the finals.”

Granted, Banyana don’t have the squad depth of the star-studded Super Falcons, but their strength has always been in their camaraderie.

“I think the vibe is good. The energy is good. We all know what we are here for and everyone is in positive minds,” Salgado explained.

“We motivate each other. We are just looking forward to the game. We worked hard to get to this stage, we just need to finish it off now.”

Banyana’s early arrival in Nigeria was more to do with ensuring that the players seamlessly adapt to the environment, especially the heat.

Salgado said that the team’s strong mentality and previous campaigns in Nigeria should be an advantage.

“I think it comes down to mind over matter. We need to put those things aside. We played in the Aisha Buhari Cup, the weather was the same,” she said.

“We won that cup. So I think it comes down to how badly we want it. And I think this team is prepared. So, there’s nothing that can stop us.”

It’s been three years since Banyana played and beat Nigeria in the Aisha Buhari Cup on home soil.

Fikile Magama with Nomvula Kgoale during training yesterday. | BackpagePix

The two giants of African football met again at the Wafcon last year, with Banyana again coming out tops in the group stage, winning 2-1.

So, having lost the two games, many assume the Super Falcons will be out for revenge. But Banyana midfielder Nomvula Kgoale is not fazed. She says they’ve prepared for any eventuality and are ready to compete all round.

“We know that last time we beat them so they’ll want revenge. So this is really going to be a tough game here away and at home,” Kgoale said.

“But I am 100% sure that we are ready physically, emotionally, and mentally. So yeah, I feel we are ready to go.”