On Tuesday afternoon, the South African Hockey community bid farewell to the sensational goalkeeping superstar Sanani Mangisa as she announced her retirement from International Hockey. As a role model to many and a massive friend of mine personally as well as of the website as well, I was always going to pay tribute to a fantastic career.
Sans and I first crossed paths in 2006 (Sanani may not remember this) when I was coaching the Eastern Gauteng Under 21 Indoor Hockey side and we played a few games against the SA Women’s Hockey side as they built towards the 2007 Indoor Hockey World Cup. What struck me very quickly was the speed at which Sans moved around the goal. This keeper had something special, I thought and I was very correct in that assertion.
Not many people will know this, but Sanani shared with me the way she got into goalkeeping. Sanani was sitting in PE Class and they were going to play hockey, someone had to be goalkeeper so Sanani put her hand up just because she wanted the class to get going. The sooner they could start playing the better. This little accident led Sanani to become arguably South Africa’s best goalkeeper.
Sanani played her first game for the outdoor national side on 30 December 2006 against Netherlands and its an apt opposition to have started her career as the recently retired Maartjie Paaumen is a player that Sanani herself lists as her toughest opponent that she faced, well at least the toughest drag flicks. Sanani would go on and represent South Africa 112 times. Included in those 112 games were the 2008 Olympic Games, as well as the 2014 World Cup and the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
The 2012 Olympic Games stick out for me in terms of the best I ever saw of Sanani, but it actually isnt the Games themselves but rather the Olympic Qualifier the team were forced to play in after winning the African Cup. The tournament was hosted in India, with only the winner qualifying for the Olympic Games. There was a group game where South Africa took on India the hosts and Sanani in goals was in inspired form in keeping the hosts at bay in a superb 4-1 win for our ladies en route to qualifying.
The other standout performance for me as a hockey fan was in the Investec Challenge in 2013. South Africa marched through to the final after beating England and drawing with Australia in the group stage, before beating Australia in the Semi-Final. The performance in that tournament from Sanani should be the one recorded and shown to young ladies and how be a goalkeeper. It was immense.
Closer to home Sanani was also an asset to her clubs (University of Pretoria until 2010, Wanderers since 2011) and her Provinces (Northern Gauteng until 2010, Southern Gauteng since 2011), choosing to consistently stay and play in South Africa rather than moving abroad. With Southern Gauteng she has won three IPT titles and has confirmed with me that she will be available to play in the IPT and PHL going forward. That will be massive news for Southern Gauteng as they look to wrestle their crowns back from their Northern neighbours.
Shelley Russell, who has played for South Africa and Southern Gauteng throughout Sanani’s career, shared this with me when asked what her thoughts on Sanani’s retirement was: “I am obviously sad to see Sanani retire as she is not only an incredible goalkeeper but also a great friend. What she has done for South African Hockey and Women in sport is phenomenal. Not only through great performances but for the work done with side media and growing our sport. On the field Sanani was incredible and was particularly amazing in one-on-ones. We will miss you Sanani and wish you well in your work coming up, Adidas are very lucky to have you!”
Marissa Langeni, the CEO of SAHA, paid tribute to Mangisa. “We have followed Sanani’s progress over the years and she has truly been a remarkable player, doing an amazing job in goal for South Africa. She enjoyed so many highlights on the field, but she was also a great ambassador for South African hockey. As Sanani likes to say, “I’m just a girl from Mthatha”, I’d like to add she’s just a girl from Mthatha with 112 caps for South Africa who through her own story inspired a new generation of fans for the game. We wish her all the best,” Langeni said.
From my personal point of view, Sanani thank you for your commitment to SA Hockey and for 10 years of incredible memories and outstanding saves. You are a role model to so many young ladies and all of us South African Hockey fans will miss you! Good luck for the new ventures, I have no doubt you will find success wherever you go!