Banyana putting best foot forward

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Banyana Banyana is in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania ahead of their international friendly match.

Amanda Dlamini is way too nonchalant for someone about to face one of the biggest moments of her career.

On the eve of the 2012 London Olympics’ draw, you’d think the captain of South Africa’s senior national women’s team would be excitedly nervous.

After all, on Tuesday her team finds out who their three opponents are in the group stages of their maiden appearance at the games when the draw is conducted in the host city. But far from being anxious, Dlamini’s main concern is getting a good rest.

“We’ve had a long camp and now that we’re on a break, I just want to be with family and enjoy the rest. I’ll hear of the draw once it has happened.”

Such is her relaxed attitude that Banyana Banyana’s captain is not even aware of the other seven countries that will go into the hat along with SA on Tuesday.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you I knew who else has qualified. We’ve been so focused on getting ourselves ready for the games that we’ve not really bothered to find out who else will be there,” she says. “We’re all keen to impress the technical team and make it into the final squad that we’ve been working very hard since we went to camp in February.”

Dlamini says that when the camp in Stellenbosch was over at the weekend, the players wished coach Joseph Mkhonza a safe journey to London and jokingly asked him to find them opposition that will be easy to beat.

“We told him to make sure we get the easiest opponents. We said to him he must get us opposition we can hammer 6-0 and more. He just laughed and told us there’s no such thing as easy opposition at this level.”

Dlamini and her teammates are well aware of this. What with the likes of the United States of America (USA) – the defending champions and winners of the previous two editions, as well as Brazil – the silver medalists in the previous two editions of the games – competing.

“We knew when we qualified that we’d be in for tough competition. And that’s why we’ve been working very hard at getting ourselves in good condition and getting into top shape for the Games. I’m feeling optimistic that whoever we’re drawn against, we will be able to compete admirably.”

Dlamini’s confidence stems from what she describes as a ‘‘an amazing determination by everybody to do well in London’’.

“We’ve had a good camp, one of the most competitive I’ve been in. “Everybody brought their A game. Everyone pulled their weight and worked hard. Even the new guys that came in pushed hard to try to impress the technical team. It has been the kind of camp that no one can be sure they will be in the final squad because everyone has done so well.”

She said having Portia Modise in the squad was good for team morale because the veteran striker provided encouragement.

“She motivated us, telling us how important it was that we work hard at do well at the Olympics. She was encouraging, and seeing her work hard made everybody else lift their game as well.”

After Tuesday’s draw, the squad’s focus will shift from the players trying to earn their spot in the final squad to them preparing to compete against specific opposition.

“We’re just off for a week and when we go back, we will have a different approach as we will start working on preparing for specific opponents, and that’s very exciting.”

Whether it will be mighty US or lowly New Zealand they compete against, Dlamini and Banyana Banyana know that they are on the verge of a historic moment.

“Even if we draw the best (team) in the world, we will go to London and give it our best shot because we know we will be trailblazers in an experience that we will cherish forever.” – Star Africa


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