Mpumelelo Nyandeni has been out of action for a lengthy period due to a knee injury. She sat down with Matlhomola Morake to talk about her return.

Sasol Banyana Banyana will this afternoon hold their final training session at the Isak Steyl Stadium, University of Technology in Vanderbijl Park – the match venue for their international friendly clash against neighbours Botswana.

The match is on Saturday, 07 June 2014 with a 15h00 kickoff.

The squad has been taken through their paces the whole week by head coach Vera Pauw, who is happy with the returns.

Among those in the squad is striker Mpumelelo Nyandeni, the only overseas-based player selected for this match. She is on the books of Russian side Rossiyinka FC.

Nyandeni has been out of action for a lengthy period due to a knee injury. She sat down with Matlhomola Morake to talk about her return. Here’s her story:

Matlhomola Morake: Welcome back and how does it feel to be in the fold again?

Mpumelelo Nyandeni: I want to thank the coach (Vera Pauw) for giving me the chance to return to the team after such a long absence. So I feel very happy that I am in the set-up again, but I am not hundred percent fit as I am still carrying a knee injury, but just being a part of this group really makes me feel great.

MM: When last did you play for Banyana?

MN: During the 2012 Olympics Games in London, almost two years. It’s has been a long time.

MM: So how did the injury come about?

MN: I got the injury last year at my club when they kicked me behind the knee. It was a terrible injury and very painful which made walking difficult. But now I am back at training which shows a lot of progress. I am just glad I am back where I belong, on the field. I stayed out of the game for four months without training due to this injury.

MM: When do you think you will back to 100 percent fitness?

MN: I am not sure but I am hoping it is going to be soon. I took some shots at training, made some turns and it is not as painful anymore which means I am getting somewhere.

MM: You come to Banyana Banyana you find new faces….

MN: Yes I have been gone for a while so when I got here I saw some new faces and some familiar ones of course. The funny part is that when we are on the field and I want them to pass the ball to me I first have ask “by the way who is that?” It’s also a good thing that we have new faces in the team which shows that South Africa has a lot of talent, and the experienced players can impart that knowledge so that South African football can move forward and be strong.

MM: How did you feel being on the sidelines while the others were playing?

MN: After my injury I made a huge mistake by returning to South Africa in April but did not tell anyone. When the coach (Pauw) enquired about me from my club she found that I was already back home. She then invited me to come to the team to have a look at me. I went to their camp before they played Ghana and wished them well. It was good to see the team playing so well, which is an indication that we are not a one-man team. I was also glad to know that we have qualified for the AWC in Namibia and I am confident that we will qualify for the World Cup. It shows progress.

MM: You still haven’t answered my question……..

MN: Ok eish, back to your question. It is kind of obvious that it was hurting watching from the sidelines as the team was training or playing and I was not part of the action on the field. As a player nothing fulfills me more than being on the field, so I was really itching to play. I have been praying that my knee gets better so I can go back to what I do best.

MM: Qualifying for AWC……do you have hopes of being there?

Of course I have the belief that I will be part of the squad going to the tournament and help the team proceed to the World Cup, provided I can regain my full fitness. Although a part of me is sad that I did not help in qualifying for the AWC. I believe in myself, so I really see myself in those tournaments especially the world cup, it is every player’s dream to represent their country at the highest level. Although I did not help the team to qualify for AWC but in spirit I was there. I strongly believe God will help me get there because I really want to be part of the team at those two tournaments.

MM: Personally, how are things in Russia?

MN: Last season we were struggling a bit ending off on position 4, while in UEFA we were knocked out in the round of 16. We did not really do well, and now we have a few youngsters in the side. I also did not score much, perhaps about 8 which is not a good return for me.

MM: So when are you going back?

MN: It all depends on my injury, if I recover well I will go back, but if not I will have to weigh my options. The important thing for me now is to get back to full fitness, then we will see.

MM: Any challenges while in Russia?

MN: It’s a great feeling playing for a club overseas but also is a bit difficult in that when I return home I find that a lot has happened and I wasn’t here. I then need to adjust, for example, the weather patterns really get to me. When it’s cold here I find myself getting very hot, but when I go back to Russia the coldness hits me. But I am used to it now. Also the funny one is that I sometimes forget isiZulu words and substitute them with Russian language, and when In Russia I forget the language, but it’s all fun for me.

MM: Speaking of the language, how are you coping?

MN: I have been in Russia for four years now and I speak the language fluently which has made life very easy for me. I am now able to communicate with all my teammates because I am the only black person in the team. The coach no longer needs a translator for me, I hear and understand every word.

MM: Only black person in the team?

MN: Yes, and they treat me very well, I have now become a part of the team and there is no discrimination in my team which helps me focus entirely on the job of playing. When I first got there it was a bit tough and not speaking the language made things worse, but now we are one group and they understand me and I likewise.

MM: Food in Russia?

MN: A little challenge is that there is no pap, but I love their potato as well as their soup, I really enjoy them. I must admit that the food is not that bad because they have the kind of food I am used to like rice, chicken and beef.

MM: Do you cook?

MN: Not always because after the daily training session we eat at the clubhouse where food is prepared for the team. Later you have a choice of cooking for yourself of going back to the club to eat there again.

MM: Has the club been keeping in touch with you on your progress?

MN: Yes they do it periodically. They will be calling me now in the middle of June to find out how I am doing and how far I am with my recovery, so this training with the national team is really helping a lot. Next month the league is going into recess and resumes in August, and hopefully I will be almost ready. But the good thing is that my running has improved. The coach (Pauw) has told me to remove the injury from my head because it has now become a mental issue. The thing with the knee is that it is all in the mind, when you turn on the field you remember that you are carrying an injury and you are afraid to do certain moves on the field. You end up not healing quickly but I am really pushing myself.

MM: Thanks for your time and good luck

MN: Thanks for the opportunity and I hope to be back in no time.

NB: The 2014 African Women’s Championship will be held in Namibia from 11-25 October. The top three at the tournament will qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Canada.