South African u23 Men’s National Team goalkeeper Jody February has dismissed talk of being the hero as he helped the country to a third place finish at the CAF u23 Africa Cup of National Tournament after a 3-1 penalty win over hosts Senegal in Dakar on Saturday, 12 December.
February’s heroics of saving one penalty in the match and a further three in the penalty shootout ensured South Africa book a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, joining eventual tournament winners Nigeria and runners up Algeria.
“I thought if I save the one in the game then we are going to Rio and lady luck was also on our side, God Almighty was with us and here we are, we are going to Rio,” said an excited February.
“I am over the moon, I don’t know how to explain this feeling. I would like to give thanks to the Almighty, to my teammates, the technical staff for believing in us. Throughout the tournament we were down but not out, we came back stronger and we showed why we are here, that we are not here by fluke. We showed we really wanted to go to Rio.”
During the penalty shootout, Gift Motupa stepped up to give South Africa the lead, and February saved second half substitute Sylvain Badji’s shot. But Kwanda Mngonyama erased his team’s advantage when he shot straight to Pape Ndiaye in the Senegal goal.
February was again on hand to save Elhadji Pape Diaw’s spot kick while Menzi Masuku (who came on for Deolin Mekoa, increased South Africa’s lead to 2-0.
Senegal managed to convert their third kick through Ismaila Sarr, before South African captain Keagan Dolly missed his penalty.
February wasn’t done yet as he saved Sidy Sarr’s shot and almost clinched the win for South Africa – which was confirmed when Phakamani Mahlambi slotted in the penalty to give his country a 3-1 win.
“One can put it that way that I am the hero and made the difference, but it was more of a team effort. Without the boys putting in extra effort and hard work we would not have got to the penalty shootout. All I did was my part and I am happy for South African football, we got the platform now we must grow the game,” said February.
For the first time in history, both the men and women’s national teams will represent South Africa at the Olympics as Banyana Banyana had already qualified for the global showpiece.