Reaching 100 international matches is an incredible achievement, and over in Japan another Banyana Banyana star joined the centurion club as Leandra Smeda made it 100 not out.
The midfielder started for Desiree Ellis’ side as they took on the 2011 World Cup champions in Fukuoka in an international friendly, and was honoured for her achievements in the game when she was presented with a special jersey with 100 printed on the front.
Smeda’s achievement means that she joins the likes of Janine van Wyk, Refiloe Jane, Nompulelelo Nyandeni, Noko Matlou, Amanda Dlamini, Mamello Makhabane and Portia Modise who all played more than 100 times for Banyana, but at 30 years old she’s not done yet.
Going down 2-0 was not the way she would have wanted her 100th cap to play out, but she was nevertheless pleased with the performance, telling SAFA’s official website, “It was a good game and we played well. We knew it was going to be tough. We created some chances but we made some mistakes and we got punished. The coach had warned us that if we make a mistake against Japan, we will pay the price and that is what happened.
“But for me personally, it was great to get my 100th cap against Japan and I enjoyed the game.”
Meanwhile, speaking about her career on the way to her latest accolade, the Vittsjö GIK midfielder said, “I think Sasol’s sponsorship has been really good for women’s football in South Africa… Women footballers are receiving more exposure, you can see it by the number of players from both Banyana Banyana and the Sasol League obtaining contracts abroad. I don’t think I would be here today if I did not receive the opportunity to play and show my talent through the Sasol League, so I’m really grateful for that.”
Reaching 100 caps for your national team is no easy feat though, and Smeda has had her challenges, saying, “The biggest challenge I faced in my football career was when I was still a student and had to study, work and play football. It was really difficult for me but with my family and friends’ support, I pushed through it all and made sure that I still excel in the sport.
“That is truly what I believe being Limitless is all about; pushing through the challenges and working hard towards your dreams. My advice to upcoming football players is to work hard, believe in themselves and enjoy the game. They should also put the same effort into school and their studies because the two work hand in hand.”
Smeda got her hands on a medal last month as her side finished third in the Damallsvenskan, Sweden’s top-flight league.