JOHANNESBURG – A delighted Simphiwe Dludlu, coach of the Under-17 women’s national team that’s going to Uruguay for the World Cup later this year, believes that Bantwana’s success will inspire the next generation of women footballers.
Bantwana returned from Morocco on Sunday in high spirits as their 6-1 win on aggregated booked them a ticket to Uruguay as one of three African representatives in the global showpiece.
Dludlu and her team will travel to Spain before the World Cup as a reward from the South African Football Association (Safa), and also as part of their preparations with a friendly against the Spanish national team a possibility.
“The feeling is surreal,” Dludlu said. “Making it finally put me at ease, because going into the game was nerve-racking.
“It wasn’t because of the fear of the unknown, but it was thinking that ‘Are we really on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup? Are we really at this stage of our journey?’
“It has been a challenging and exciting journey because we were on a mission, and part of that mission was dreaming big.
“The first stop was in South Africa, putting the team together, and the second stop was Uruguay. This is what has happened.
“We are excited about the growth of women’s football in the country. We are excited about the interest it will spark by us qualifying for the World Cup.
“This will motivate that young girl who wants to play football.”
This generation is only the second women’s national team to qualify for the World Cup. The first side to do this was the Under-17 class of 2010, led by coach Solly Luvhengo.
That team were rudely reminded of their place with the huge gulf in class between them and their opponents, conceding 17 goals in three matches.
But Jermaine Seoposenwe, the US-based Banyana Banyana striker, gave the team some consolation with the two goals she scored.
There is huge belief that this generation will do better.
Dludlu challenged them at the start of the qualifiers to start looking up Uruguay on the internet so that they’ll know what to expect when they get there.
“Firstly, for the girls who are in this group, this achievement says to them that you are allowed to dream,” Dludlu said.
“It says to them, if you can think it, dream it, then you can do it. It says to that young girl who isn’t sure that football is for girls or not, this is your sport too.
“This qualification has assured her. It should ensure that coaches out there in the country roll up their sleeves and ensure that grassroots football happens.
“It says to the parent who sacrificed money to buy her daughter soccer boots instead of church shoes, you are on the right track mom, and don’t give up just yet.”
Dludlu continued: “It says to us as South Africans, we have the potential to grow as a nation. We have the potential to grow in women’s football. This is the sign.
“This is a continuation of what we started those years ago. Qualifying for a second time is a reminder that we aren’t just part of the numbers, but we are among a group that wants to make a difference.
“Making a difference means going out there and competing at the world stage. We are aware of the mammoth task ahead of us.
“We gladly accepted the challenge when the fat lady sung at the end of the game (against Morocco on Saturday).”