'Banyana Banyana have broken barriers for women’s football under COSAFA'

'Banyana Banyana have broken barriers for women’s football under COSAFA'

Veteran football administrator Fran Hilton-Smith says Banyana Banyana have broken barriers for women’s football under the Council of Southern African Football Association.

Hilton-Smith insists Banyana have set a good example for the COSAFA region with their recent achievements – dethroning Nigeria’s Super Falcons in the Aisha Buhari Cup in 2021, claiming their maiden Women’s Africa Cup of Nation (WAFCON) title in 2022, and making history by reaching the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Round of 16.

She now desires the women’s senior national team earn more continental trophies, while wanting COSAFA teams to know it is possible to achieve whatever they set their minds to.

"I think the goal is for us to defend the WAFCON championship. I think we never thought that we would ever win AFCON – it seemed unattainable with Nigeria, specifically, always pipping us at the post," said Hilton-Smith.

"So, to now be the African champions show that we've crossed that bridge, broken that barrier, and it opens the door for all the teams, specifically those from COSAFA, who are doing very well."

One such nation on the rise has been Zambia, who finished third at the 2022 WAFCON – beating Nigeria in the third-place play-off, and also appearing at their maiden World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.

The COSAFA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient has served as a football administrator for 50 – 20 of which were served as SAFA's Head of Women's Football.

She says the special recognition from the inaugural regional awards validates the amount of work and dedication she has put into her career over the many years.

"After years of hard work, 50 years in football, many years with no reward, no payment, no job – I worked out the boot of my car, but since COSAFA came on board, they've provided competition for women, and that's a crucial factor," she added.

"Because our players are now playing at the highest level, they're being scouted overseas, they're making a living out of football, which was always my dream and has now come true.

"But it's certainly thanks to COSAFA for putting that into place, as well as, of course, CAF and FIFA. But COSAFA are trendsetters – I say that everywhere I go, and I'll say it forever!"

READ: Dr Desiree Ellis: WAFCON date delay hampers preparations