South Africa wins maiden Aisha Buhari Cup
By Anulika Menanya, Lagos
South Africa are champions of the maiden Aisha Buhari Women’s Invitational tournament, outclassing hosts, Nigeria 4-2 in the last match of the tournament on Tuesday.
The youthful, skillful and ambitious Banyana Banyana who had defeated Ghana 3-0 on matchday 2 of the competition proved too hot for the Super Falcons to handle in the game, making it 2 wins out of 2.
An own goal by Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie gave the South Africans the lead in the 6th minute in an attempt to clear out Hildah Magaia’s cross.
The goal seemed to spur the Banyanas on as they continued to mount pressure on the hosts resulting in the second goal in the 19th minute via a penalty. Defender, Onome Ebi, the most experienced player in the Falcons’ squad, had handled the ball inside the box and Linda Motlhalo took a calm shot that sent goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie, diving the other way.
South Africa made it three just before the half hour mark off a header from Gabriela Salgado after the Nigerian ladies failed the clear the lines during a goal mouth scramble.
On return from the break, the hosts came out fighting and pulled a goal back through substitute Vivian Ikechukwu. Ikechukwu got her name on the score sheet again in the 53rd minute when she slotted in from a long range with an assist from Gift Monday, the hero in the Falcons’ 2-0 win over Mali in the tournament opener.
Spain based Asisat Oshoala was a no show on the night as well as France-based forward Desire Oparanozie who wasted several scoring chances and easily lost possessions.
After the second goal and in search of an equalizer, Nigeria went back to sleep and conceded the last thereby extended the margin when South Africa went on the counter. Motlhalo was felled inside the box by Gloria Ogbonna which Mamello Makhabane converted to give South Africa a 4-2 win.
Coach, Desiree Ellis, who could not hide her excitement at full time, hailed her wonderful crop of players while dedicating the victory to everyone who has contributed to women’s football in South Africa.
“I’m ecstatic, this is a wonderful crop of players, they deserve it all. This is for all the coaches back home, all the players back home, the clubs back home, everybody involved in women’s football in South Africa, this is for all of them”.
Ellis explained what the win means to her country saying “we are making a lot of strides; we said we wanted to test ourselves against the best. We wanted to stay concentrated but we did not, but the character showed and the confidence showed and for this group of players to rise and go toe-to-toe against Nigeria in Nigeria it’s a sight to behold. We are very excited but we will not stop there. We are going to continue working, this is a start, it’s a process so we will take it step by step. Still a lot of improvement though”.
The Aisha Buhari Cup which is in its inaugural edition and tagged “Playing for Good” was organised by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), with the support from the Aisha Buhari Foundation, an NGO of Nigeria’s first lady.
The event was also held to help drum up support for women and girl-child empowerment for better opportunities.
With the magnitude of the event, stakeholders and fans want more of this level of tournament to continue hold in Nigeria and in line with the Aisha Buhari Foundation objectives and the chairman Local Organising committee, Barr. Seyi Akinwunmi, has confirmed that the competition will not be a one off.
Mr Akinwunmi who is also the first Vice president of the Nigeria Football Federation, said the committee will be looking into various modalities including the tournament format and schedule.
“It will take place next year but there are various things we need to look at like the format of the tournament, when we can that format if we want to and many other things so it certainly will take place. We are statin preparation for next year right now”, said Akinwunmi.