JOHANNESBURG – Former Banyana Banyana captain Simphiwe Dludlu is on the verge of making history by becoming the first former player of the women’s senior national team to take her country to the World Cup.
Dludlu, coach of the Under-17 women’s national team that has one foot in the World Cup, looks set to return from Morocco with a historic triumph that would take Bantwana to the World Cup that will be staged in Uruguay later this year.
Bantwana’s 2010 generation was coached by Solly Luvhengo to their first appearance in the World Cup while Joseph Mkhonza and Dutch coach Vera Pauw guided Banyana to the 2012 and 2016 Olympics Games respectively.
This generation looks set to give South African the fourth women’s team to qualify for a global competition. Bantwana will face Morocco tomorrow at 4.30pm, in Sale at Stade Boubker Amar with a 5-1 lead from the first leg of the last round of qualifiers.
“Taking this team to the World Cup would mean a lot for me because it is part of my journey that started as a young girl in Alexandria who went to the academy, the High Performance Centre (HPC),” Dludlu said. “I have risen from being just a player there to coaching the HPC team and our squad has seven girls from there. I grew up in that academy, played for the Under-20s, played and captained Banyana, coached at university level and now I am here, coaching the Under-17 women’s national team.
It’s been a journey of hard work, facing challenges head on and being able to come out stronger and say I will keep going. Even if we weren’t on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup, my heart is still pounding for women’s development. Being in this position says that I must continue being a pioneer in women’s football. I have to make a difference in the lives of these girls.”
Bantwana arrived in Casablanca on Wednesday. They first acclimatised to the difference in time zones before holding their first training session.
This afternoon they will get to feel the match venue before their date with destiny tomorrow. Dludlu is guarding against complacency which is unlikely especially after the South African Football Association (Safa) president, Danny Jordaan, promised the team a trip to Spain should they qualify for the World Cup.
“The team has grown so much because when we went to Botswana to play, half of the players were not talking to each other because they were afraid of asking each other how you are doing and even greeting each other,” Dludlu said. “That has changed drastically. This is a team on a mission, a mission to play good football. We are striving to get them to be a well-oiled machine.”