- Banyana’s victory at the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations inspired the next generation of women footballers, such as Espanyol Academy product Saaniyah Domingo.
- The 15-year-old Joburg-born winger has dreams of representing her country, an aspiration underscored by the performance of Desiree Ellis’ team in Morocco.
- The Espanyol satellite academy affiliation has grown Saaniyah’s Understanding of the game already well ahead of their peers.
Banyana Banyana’s Africa Women’s Cup of Nations win still resonates across the country months after the team made history in Morocco.
They were the first South African women’s team to win the continental tournament, hoisted by their male counterparts Bafana Bafana in 1996.
Victory over hosts Morocco in July marked a seminal moment for women’s football in South Africa, a moment in which head coach Desiree Ellis’ charges inspired the next wave of talented girls to grace the pitch.
One of those talents is Saaniyah Domingo, product of Spanish club RCD Espanyol de Barcelona Academy, who could play next year’s IberCup in Barcelona, one of the most important youth tournaments in the world.
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Born and raised in Claremont, Johannesburg, 15-year-old Saaniyah, who plays right wing, fell in love with soccer at the age of 9.
She started out by watching her older sister Shaziah play soccer at Wits and she was hooked.
“I started playing football when I was 9 and after that I went home because I couldn’t be part of the Wits team with my sister,” Saaniyah tells Sport24.
“At home I watched football matches alone and showed YouTube tutorials on certain skills on the pitch.
“I taught myself to juggle and all that. When I turned 12 my mother saw that I was getting more interested in football and my aunt told her to send me to the SuperSport football schools.
“That’s where I developed my skills. They helped me a lot.
“But it was difficult being the only woman there because the boys were like, ‘She’s a girl, what does she know about football?’
“But they taught me tenacity and that’s what made me the player I am, so I’m grateful for that too.”
Her father, a former youth international, Sadick Domingo, also began to delight her with stories from his playing days and this cemented the sport as her passion.
“When my father was under 15, he played against the French national team and against them [former Chelsea wing] Florent Malouda and he told me all these stories,” she says.
“And now that I have the opportunity to play, I just want to make him proud.
“He was one of the reasons I wanted to play football and so did my sister. When you grow up with an older sister, you want to do everything your older siblings do.
“You want to impress her. She played for Wits and I wanted to be part of that team but I still am [too] young.
“She’s left-back but I’m playing right winger.”
Saaniyah Domingo. (included)
Saaniyah teaches at home and is totally focused on making soccer her career.
Her mother Farana is fully supportive and she has received sponsorship from fiber technology company Vuma to attend Espanyol Academy in Johannesburg and try to achieve her dreams.
Her belief that she can become a full-fledged South Africa international came after watching Banyana make history in Morocco.
Hildah Magaia, scoring twice to lift the trophy, is a memory likely etched into her impressionable memory forever.
“Yes, I would like to play for Banyana one day,” she says.
“Hard work and dedication is what it takes to get there.
“I was amazed when I saw Banyana Banyana during the Africa Cup of Nations.
“You have opened many doors for young women footballers in South Africa to show that the sky is the limit.
“Hildah scoring those goals just showed South African talent and showed young women they can do it [have a chance] to present their skills.
“What I also took away from them was their teamwork and the way they played, which was phenomenal.”
As part of Espanyol’s satellite academy in Johannesburg, Saaniyah has broadened her understanding of the game, which is already way ahead of her peers.
“The methodology that our team is currently training with is very intensive,” she says.
“The training is tense. Your fitness needs to be high, your eating habits need to change. You can’t eat the way you want anymore.
“We learn how to control the game, fit into space, communicate when you’re on the ball and when you’re not, and most importantly, how to read the game and the pace of the game.
“We do that every day. As a winger, I do a lot of cross and shooting practice.”