There have been only two previous editions of the CAF Women’s Champions League | COSAFA Qualifiers but already there is a long list of players who have enhanced their reputations through the regional tournament.
As we prepare for the third installment to be staged in Durban from Aug. 30-Sept. 8, we pick 10 players who have left their mark in the last two years, and wonder who might break into this list from 2023’s competition.
HELLEN CHANDA (GREEN BUFFALOES)
Chanda was a driving force behind Green Buffaloes’ success in 2022 with some powerful displays in midfield and a goal in their opening match against Young Buffaloes from Eswatini. She has been a hugely consistent player for the side for several years and was rewarded with a place in Zambia’s squad for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, where she started the 3-1 win over Costa Rica.
CHRISTOBEL KATONA (BLACK RHINOS QUEENS)
Zimbabwe club Black Rhinos Queens made the final of the 2021 tournament, where they would lose to Mamelodi Sundowns, but a player who caught the eye along the way was midfielder Katona. Now 24, she was so impressive that her exploits earned her a place in the Zimbabwe squad for the 2021 COSAFA Women’s Championship. She netted goals in the pool stages against Green Buffaloes and TURA Magic from Namibia and has continued to be a top performer for her club.
MELINDA KGADIETE (MAMELODI SUNDOWNS)
Kgadiete is the leading scorer in the history of the CAF Women’s Champions League | COSAFA Qualifiers with eight goals spread over the two tournaments played to date. She scored five times as Sundowns romped to the title in 2021, earning her the Golden Boot, and then added another three goals in 2022 when they were edged on penalties in the final by Green Buffaloes. She remains an important player for The Brazilians and will be looking to add to her tally in 2023.
IREEN LUNGU (GREEN BUFFALOES)
Lunga was the Golden Boot winner in 2022 as Green Buffaloes lifted the trophy with a shoot-out win over Sundowns in the final. She was superb all tournament, netting twice against Young Buffaloes and then following that up with a hattrick versus Comoros side Olympic de Moroni. Her five goals were the most in the competition. She is also an important player for the Copper Queens and started their 2023 Women’s World Cup matches against Spain and Japan.
RUTENDO MAKORE (BLACK RHINOS QUEENS)
Black Rhinos Queens did not win the competition in 2021, but forward Makore was named Player of the Tournament nonetheless for her excellent all-round displays that earned her club their final spot. She netted a brace against TURA Magic but was also a creator for others and a constant thorn in the side of opponents. Now with veteran status, she featured for Zimbabwe at the 2016 Olympic Games and is one of the finest players her country has produced.
AISHA MBWANA (GREEN BUFFALOES)
Goalkeeper Mbwana was a major factor in Green Buffaloes lifting the trophy in 2022 as she made several stunning saves through the tournament, and then helped the team to a shoot-out win in the final against Sundowns. The 30-year-old did enough to claim the Golden Glove prize and represented her club well in the continental finals that were played in Morocco.
BAMBANANI MBANE (MAMELODI SUNDOWNS)
The centre-back has been a key player for club and country for several years and is arguably among the best defenders on the African continent. She has helped Sundowns to two finals in succession in the tournament, during which time they have only conceded three goals in eight games. She is also a power at the back for South Africa and was one of their stars at the 2023 Women’s World Cup Down Under.
ANDISIWE MGCOYI (MAMELODI SUNDOWNS)
The hugely experienced forward has been a talismanic figure for Sundowns in past tournaments with her height and pace an advantage. She managed four goals in 2021 and another two in 2022 and is right up there on the list of all-time scorers in the competition. She should be back to add to her tally this year and will be a major threat for opponents with the knowledge gained from many years playing in Europe.
PRECIOUS MUDYIWA (BLACK RHINOS QUEENS)
Mudyiwa was the outstanding goalkeeper in the 2021 tournament and took home the Golden Glove as she helped Black Rhinos Queens into the final. She could not see them over the line against Sundowns, but was rock solid to that point, having not conceded in the previous 270 minutes of football. Her exploits wrote her name into the history books.
LESEGO RADIAKANYO (DOUBLE ACTION LADIES)
Radiakanyo is a star with the Botswana national team, but also helped Double Action Ladies to back-to-back top four finishes in the CAF Women’s Champions League | COSAFA Qualifiers. The 24-year-old is a creative player with an eye for goal herself, as she displayed in the 6-0 victory over Lesotho Defence Force in 2021, when she netted a brace. She managed three goals in all in that competition.