Hours before this “unofficial” send off dinner for Banyana Banyana from Limpopo started, a colleague in the media industry, Chad Klate, replied to the Promo poster for the event saying: “If we don’t get behind our own, who will?”.

This is exactly why I, alongside a small team, including Ofhani Munyai of Capricorn FM and my close friends, organised the dinner to send off our Limpopo stars to France.

Banyana Banyana qualified for their maiden FIFA Women’s World cup in 2018, 20 years after Bafana Bafana qualified for their first World Cup and 10 years after striker turned defender Noko Matlou became the first South African footballer to win a CAF player of the year award. 

“I thought to myself, what a milestone, what an enduring patriotic heart.” – Lethabo Kganyago

This woman with over 150 Caps that include two Olympic Games (2012 & 2016) cannot go to a World Cup especially silently. It would have been tragic.

Matlou’s presence in the National team has allowed for fresh flowers from Limpopo in Lebo Ramalepe, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Molatelo Sebata and Tshidi Muruwa to bloom. Ramalepe, a tiny defender, and Mulaudzi a striker currently with Canberra United FC in Australia, have gone on to become regulars in the National team and were a big part of Banyana’s success to qualify for France 2019.

The dinner was never about them being selected in the final 23 to represent Mzansi in France. 

It was always about appreciating their contribution to the growth of women’s football in Limpopo and in the country.

I thought of their struggles, of delayed bonus payments for some squad appearances, the fact that unlike men they have to go work and come back and play football.

It was meant to be an intimate set up with me and just all of them enjoying home cooked meals, food they would miss if they were picked in the final squad.

The dinner was being planned in consideration of Banyana’s busy schedule and the final date coincided with the announcement of the final squad. 

“By Grace and talent they all made it.” – Lethabo Kganyago

Earlier Munyai had challenged me to make it bigger and include everyone from the Province. 

In summary, organising the event proved challenging as we had some doors slammed in our faces and broken promises from authorities even. I cannot stress enough how important and supportive colleagues in the industry have been.

One such that deserves a mention is Kaya FM, and official Fifa world cup media officer for South Africa, Busisiwe Mokoena. My colleague Velile Mbuli and the SABC INFO-HUB team and my friends, who do not want any mentions publicly, were encouraging.

We eventually got a venue sponsor Miami Lodges in Polokwane and ended up as that intimate group from the planning stage. Rhoda joined us via Video call, as she had prior commitments with her sponsors Boots for Africa. 

Sixteen patriots, including Tiyani Mabunda of Mamelodi Sundowns, lined up for a humble guard of honour for the girls and shared a meal with them.

This gesture was enough for the girls. An appreciation get together became one of the most beautiful send-offs, the only one they ever had from their hometown going anywhere.

 

Photo 1 caption: A fierce, fearless, driven, about-women, passionate, fighter, funny and get-it-done kind-of-person, new gsport member and Limpopo correspondent for the SABC’s INFO HUB team, Lethabo Kganyago blogs about how she and a group of friends gave Limpopo-born Banyana Banyana players a meaningful send-off to the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Friday, 17 May. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 caption: South African sports journalist Lethabo Kganyago decided that she must organise and host the first-ever celebration to wish Limpopo-born international athletes well on their way to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. Photo: Supplied

Photo 3 caption: Ma-Indies FC and Banyana Banyana defender Lebo Ramalepe tears up at the podium, as the magnitude of the occasion overwhelms her. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 caption: Banyana Banyana stars Noko Matlou (152 caps) and Lebo Ramalepe (62 caps) lead the signing of the National Anthem. Photo: Supplied

Photo 5 caption: “An appreciation get together became one of the most beautiful send-offs, the only one they ever had from their hometown going anywhere.” – Lethabo Kganyago Photo: Supplied

 

With editing by gsport