South Africa’s Banyana Banyana finally got their hands on what had proved to be an elusive Women’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy after a 2-1 win over hosts Morocco.
Banyana Banyana had endured decades of near misses, suffering defeat in four previous finals before Saturday’s showdown in Casablanca.
Hilda Magaia breathed life into the game after the hour mark to give South Africa the lead, tucking in Jermaine Seoposenwe’s cutback, after both sides failed to have meaningful action in front of goal in the first half.
Magaia’s goal was the first time ever the Banyana Banyana took the lead in a WAFCON final.
The South Korea-based forward made doubled their lead eight minutes later, with a dinked finish past Moroccan goalkeeper Khadija Err-Michi after Nesryne El Chad’s error had allowed her through.
Rosella Ayane who plays for Tottenham Hotspur pulled one back for the Moroccans and became the first player to score past goalkeeper Andile Dlamini in over six hours. But it was too little too late for the Lionesses.
South Africa had lost their four previous finals: in 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2018. But won the 2022 title with class as they became only the second side to win all six of their games.
“It was a humbling experience, and an emotional one, when you look at the journey that we have travelled as Banyana Banyana,” captain Refiloe Jane told BBC Sport Africa.
“To finally get to this point meant a lot for everyone. When the final whistle went out, I was crying. It was the most humbling and emotional experience.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much after a football match – that goes to show our journey, everything that we had to go through and things have finally come together,” she added.
For coach Desire Ellis who was part of the team that lost the final in 2000, it was a hugely rewarding victory to get her hands on the trophy albeit 22 years later.
“It feels amazing,” she told the BBC. “I’m an African champion now – and no one can take that away from us,” she said.
The victory represents South Africa’s second continental title – after the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations triumph by the Bafana Bafana.
Banyana Banyana will travel to next year’s Women’s World Cup as African champions, with Morocco, third-placed Zambia and nine-time champions Nigeria joining them for the 2023 tournament.