Interim head coach of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana team, Desiree Ellis, has three new caps in her squad that will face France in an international friendly match on Sunday, 22 January in Saint-Denis, Reunion Islands.
Kickoff is at 19h00 South African time (21h00 local time).
The trio – SA u20 international Gabriela Salgado of JVW FC, Zinhle Chabaku of Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies FC and Monnye Theledi of Kanatla Ladies in Limpopo – has settled in well since their arrival in the national team.
All of them played at the 2016 Sasol League National League Championship played in Mosselbay, Western Cape in December – a tournament won by Chabaku’s team after defeating Salgado’s side in the final.
Now they have to step up to a higher level of international competition.
The youngest of the trio is Salgado, who has tasted a high level of national team action as she has played in the Basetsana squad, but she admits there is no comparison.
“There is a huge difference – the intensity is different, it’s a bit more focused and you can’t think like an u20 player when you are here, you have to think like a first team player,” said a beaming Salgado after one of the training sessions in Reunion Islands.
At club level, she is teammates with Banyana Banyana captain, Janine van Wyk, Amanda Dlamini, Linda Motlhalo and goalkeeper Yolula Tsawe – who are all part of the current squad that is preparing to play France.
But never in her wildest dream did she think that one day she would join them in the Senior Women’s National Team.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to play with the experienced Amanda, Janine, Jermaine and all the other players that contribute to the national team, so it’s a real honour to be playing with them. It feels so good to bond with the first team players. When I got the call up I was shocked – I had achieved my dream of being in the Banyana Banyana squad, something I have always wanted and worked very hard for. Now being here and experiencing it first hand makes me want to push harder and dream further,” added Salgado.
“I think I am the lucky one because other players get to travel to neighbouring countries of South African on their first call up and I am out here in Reunion Islands preparing to play against the third best team in the world – it’s an honour and I am grateful that God has given me this chance. I will do my best should I be given a chance to don the play.”
Meanwhile Leandra Smeda was back on the field training with her teammates and finished the session without any discomfort.
Smeda had to be carried off the field in the squad’s training session on Wednesday, 18 January suffering from an ankle injury. She missed the first training in Reunion Islands.