JOHANNESBURG – Fresh from conceding seven goals in a single match, Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Andile Dlamini has set herself a tough challenge in her maiden appearance at the Women’s World Cup.
The 26-year-old had the tough task of having to pick the ball out of her own net seven times as the South African national women’s soccer team were thumped 7-2 by Norway in an international friendly in Amiens, France, on Sunday.
Dlamini took that in her stride, not dropping her head or losing her confidence ahead of Banyana’s date with destiny.
The SA anthem will be sung for the first time at a Women’s World Cup at Stade Oceane on Saturday in Banyana’s clash with Spain (6pm kickoff). Five days later they will take on China in Paris and then face Germany in Montpellier on June 17.
“No goals,” Dlamini said followed by a loud laugh to the question of what’s her personal goal at the World Cup.
“Any goalkeeper wouldn’t want to concede. I would like not to concede. That’s my goal, no goals. I can’t wait to grow. I have grown in the past couple of matches I have played against the top countries. The feel of playing these countries is different.
“I feel that I am growing each and every day because of the challenges that I face, they are one step higher. If you save a ball against the number one ranked country in the world, you feel motivated because there isn’t a team that can handle them in the world, but you can. I am driven. I work hard and my teammates push me. I have great teammates.”
Their World Cup appearance is a dream that has been in the making for years for Banyana who have made two successive appearances at the Olympics.
Since taking part in the Games in London and Rio, there were two pieces of the puzzle missing - becoming African champions and taking part at the World Cup.
They fell short of conquering the continent in Ghana last year, losing in the final to Nigeria at the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations. But that second-place finish was enough to earn them a ticket to France where they will be representing the continent along with Nigeria and Cameroon.
“When we qualified for the World Cup there was excitement of a different kind,” Dlamini said.
“Now that the tournament is days away, we are excited but differently. There’s a huge anticipation to start the first game because this is our first ever World Cup. We are here to learn and we are here to play. This is a big stage to showcase our talent.
“We are extremely excited that we qualified for the World Cup and we made history. I am excited on a personal note that one of my dreams came true, that I made the World Cup team and I am at the World Cup. I am proud of myself, my teammates and everybody who played a role in us getting here.”
Even though the odds are stacked heavily against Banyana, Dlamini promised that the team will give it their all to make themselves and SA proud.
“We are here to compete,” Dlamini said. “We are here to do our best and let God do the rest. We will leave everything on the field of play. We are here to do our best.
“Forget the match against Norway, the way we played against them in the second half is what Banyana Banyana are capable of. We are fighters. Just look at where we are ranked, we still make people uncomfortable playing us.”