‘Little’ girl from Lentegeur shines on the big stage

Jermaine Seoposenwe of South Africa celebrates with winner’s trophy during the 2022 Womens Africa Cup of Nations final between Morocco and South Africa at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, Rabat, Morocco on July 23 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

The last time Plainsman saw Banyana Banyana goal poacher Jermaine Seoposenwe, 27, from Lentegeur, the then teenager was sorting out her visa to travel to Trinidad and Tobago for the Women’s under-17 Soccer World Cup.

That was 12 years ago, in August 2010, and South Africa had just hosted the first Fifa Soccer World Cup on the continent. Between sorting out her travel arrangements and packing her bags, there was simply no time to have a picture taken for the paper. The only way to catch her was at an internet cafe while completing an online application and a quick pop in at a shoe store in the Promenade to check out the latest soccer boots.

Fast forward to 2022 and the star striker, a former pupil at Portland High, is now considered among the queens of African women’s football, having been part of the team that beat hosts Morocco 2-1 at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium, in Rabat, in the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon), just over a week ago, to claim the continental crown.

The biennial tournament also doubled as the African qualifiers for next year’s Women’s World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, with the top four teams going through.

The 2020 edition of the competition was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. South Africa now joins three-time champions Nigeria as the only country to have won both the men’s and women’s competition.

Jermaine Seoposenwe of South Africa during the 2022 Womens Africa Cup of Nations final. © Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Seoposenwe, the second youngest of four sisters, spent a bit of time with her siblings in Johannesburg before travelling to the city a day or two after the arrival of the rest of the Cape-based national players at Cape Town International Airport, at the weekend.

It was to be a homecoming of note for her proud parents Jeffery and Sonia and of course, the Lentegeur community where she grew up.

As the self-appointed family historian and doting dad, Seoposenwe Senior, 63, has kept a close record of his daughter’s achievements, with every single newspaper clipping, including the one previously published in the Plainsman, neatly stored in a memory box.

Sporty by nature and an accomplished athlete in his youth, the elder Seoposenwe credits his father Peterus for his daughter’s soccer genes. It’s hardly surprising that she knows how to kick a ball. “Her grandfather was a really good soccer player. All my brothers played soccer and they still do,” he said.

“Jermaine has been playing soccer with the boys in the street from a very young age. She started off at Standards United Football Club, here in Lentegeur, playing with the boys until she could no longer be part of a boys’ team. Then she was invited to join the girls’ team at Santos and in 2010 went to play at the women’s under-17 world cup in Trinidad and Tobago where she was the first woman player from South Africa to score a goal on the international scene after SA was allowed back onto the world stage,” he said.

Standards coach Ganief Stemmet fondly remembers those early days, saying: “She spent six years at Standards and she never missed a training session. She was always a determined, dedicated and a well disciplined young woman.

“Young girls and women should be inspired to follow in her footsteps and I would like to encourage them all to take up the challenge, to complete the three D’s – discipline, dedication, determination – and you will be able to become another Jermaine,” he said.

Although her best is undoubtedly yet to come, Seoposenwe has been around long enough to have tasted disappointment and jubilation on Banyana’s road to victory. Having made her mark early on at the under-17 Women’s World Cup, named SA’s Young Women’s Player of the Year in 2010, helping Banyana qualify for the Rio Games in 2016 and playing a starring role at last year’s Women’s World Cup in France, she’s certainly no flash in the pan.

“Going into the tournament, I felt I had something to prove. Being away for two years, there were a lot of people that said, why is Jermaine back in the squad and there were a lot of people wanting me back in the squad,” the well-traveled player said in an interview following Banyana’s historic victory.

“ I felt this was a prime opportunity for me to show just what I’ve learnt in Europe and come back and help the team to win our first goal medal. That was the main goal for everyone,” said Seoposenwe, whose soccer journey has taken her from Standards to Santos to UWC and abroad, including spells in America and with Gintra Universitetas in Lithuania, with Spanish side Real Betis and most recently, with SC Braga in Portugal. She made an immediate impact at Braga, scoring twice against rivals SL Benfica in last year’s final of the Taca de Portugal, to help her side to a 3-1 victory.

As fate would have it, it seems, she had a date with destiny at this year’s Wafcon and ultimately, continental glory.

Her two goals in the tournament, including the 14th minute winner in a crucial quarter-final clash against Tunisia, booked their spot in the semi-finals against Zambia, whom they beat 1-0. In the other semi-final, host nation Morocco beat Nigeria 5-4 on penalties after playing to a 1-all draw to go through to their first ever Wafcon final.

As if written in the stars, Banyana’s campaign came to a fairytale ending with the once little girl from Lentegeur and her team mates emerging victorious.

“We tried to stay united as a team. I didn’t think too much about the pressure. I just felt like if I played my game, I could deliver on the goals and the assists and that’s what I did,” Seoposenwe said.