Bongeka Gamede motivated by Desiree Ellis’ faith in her

  • By Kate Nokwe

  • 5th September 2023

Bongeka Gamede motivated by Desiree Ellis’ faith in her

Selection for the 2023 FIFA World Cup was already more than Banyana Banyana centre-back Bongeka Gamede had dreamed of, what she didn’t know, however, was the life-changing potential of the showpiece.

In her global tournament debut, Gamede unexpectedly started all three group matches against Sweden, Argentina and Italy ahead of the experienced Noko Matlou. 

READ: FIFA won't pay Banyana bonuses directly - SAFA CEO

The defender, one of the standout players in Australia and New Zealand – particularly in the 2-1 loss to tournament favourites Sweden, told SABC Sport her only goal was to return Desiree Ellis' faith in her.

"It only motivates me to do even much more. If I get to play in that higher standard," she revealed.

"Of course, I was nervous about getting a cap on the world stage. But with the help of my teammates, I managed to calm down and the goal was to just do the work that you can do, then the rest is God. 

"I think we went there with the focus that we knew Sweden was not going to be an easy game. But we also said, 'Nah, it's football. It's 11 v 11 on the field.' I think we did that."

Banyana defied the odds to become the first male or female national team to progress through a World Cup group stage. 

And, with 17 of the squad's 23 members competing in South Africa's semi-professional Hollywoodbets Super League, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) skipper argues they proved they can compete with anyone, including full-fledged professionals. 

READ: Banyana assistant coach confirms exciting USA trip

However, she is sure a professional league would propel them to even greater heights. 

"I wouldn't say we are that far [in terms of standards], but looking at the league we have in South Africa, I think, if we can have a professional league, we can be two steps ahead of where we are right now. 

"Because most of the players [that went to] the World Cup play in the Hollywoodbets [Super League], but we managed to play at a higher level. No one could see that we don't have a professional league in South Africa." 

An injury to captain Refiloe Jane in the 2-2 draw with Argentina and disciplinary problems with Kholosa Biyana forced Gamede to fill in as a defensive midfielder. 

While she is determined to help UWC wrestle for the Super League title from the dominant Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, the 24-year-old also harbours ambitions of an abroad move and hopes her versatility will serve her well. 

"One step at a time", she smiled defiantly. "But I will love to play abroad. That's my goal. I played two positions in the World Cup and most of the teams want people who are versatile, who can play two or more positions. 

"I think playing in the World Cup is going to help other teams see me [as a potential signing]." 

Ellis will on Wednesday at 12:00 name a squad to travel to Cincinnati and Chicago later this month to face four-time Women's World Cup champions USA in two friendly internationals.