CAPE TOWN – Even though Refiloe Jane was one of the lucky few to have an early taste of high-level football when she flew off to England to train with the likes of Arsenal and Everton when she was just 16-years-old, the Banyana Banyana striker admits she “didn’t know what to expect” when she landed in Australia.
Jane recently signed for Canberra United, along with Banyana teammate Rhoda Mulaudzi, and was even forced to miss the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations final against Nigeria due to club commitments.
But the 26-year-old is quickly adapting to life as a full-time professional footballer and is hoping to share her experiences with her Banyana teammates this week as they prepare for a couple of high-profile friendlies against the Netherlands and Sweden at Cape Town Stadium.
“The experience is very nice (in Australia). We are learning so much. When we left we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t have any experience playing professionally. We can only grow from that and come back and share our experiences,” Jane said yesterday.
“It is really important to get players overseas and just as important for them to come back and share their knowledge. It is a different ball game. Coming back with the experience gives young players the idea of what it takes to play overseas and in the big leagues and what needs to be done to survive.”
Banyana are fast resembling their Bafana Bafana counterparts of 1998 when they travelled to their maiden World Cup, ironically also staged in France, with a squad that was virtually all based overseas. Besides Jane and Mulaudzi, Banyana also have captain Janine van Wyk, Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo based in the United States at Houston Dash, while goalkeeper Roxanne Barker plays in the Netherlands and striker Andisiwe Mgcoyi in Germany. There are also a host of young players plying their trade at US universities.
This all signifies significant growth for women’s football in South Africa, with qualification for the World Cup the major feat. Jane, however, wants the team to put their achievement behind them in order to focus fully on their preparations for the showpiece in France in June and July.
“It is not an easy task to forget the qualification for the World Cup, but we have to remind ourselves that is done and that we need to focus on the bigger picture. We have worked so hard on qualifying, but now we need move towards the actual tournament,” she said.
“We can’t forget that there is a bigger goal, which is of course the World Cup, where want to make a name for ourselves and not just to go there and add numbers.”@ZaahierAdams