31 July 2018 – One day, when South Africa’s National Under-17 (Bantwana) coach Simphiwe Dludlu’s daughter is older, she’ll hear tales of how much of a rebel her mother was, and how she competed with boys in 4th Avenue in Alexandra, playing endless hours of street football, in pursuit of a dream she is now living.
And that’s what qualifying for this year’s FIFA Under-17 women’s World Cup set to take place in Uruguay from November 13 to December 1 was for the 30-year old gaffer. It was a dream coming through, manifesting itself through many folds of a series heartaches, disappointments experienced, and the continuous relentless desire of not giving in, regardless.
In 2016, Dludlu felt her dream of finally qualifying for her first ever FIFA World Cup in the women’s game slipping away out of her reach. She couldn’t reach that milestone during her playing days for Banyana Banyana. Bantwana had gotten a bye in the 2016 FIFA World Cup preliminary qualifying round, and also progressed to the third and final round by virtue of a getting a walkover over Zambia in the second. Dludlu was an assistant to the now Basetsana head coach, Maude Khumalo, then. However, it was in the third round where Bantwana met a more driven Nigeria side. They lost the round 7-0 on aggregate, and thus, missing out on an opportunity to qualify for their second FIFA World Cup appearance.
Dludlu expressed that experience served as one of the most important learning curves in her young coaching career.
“Everybody was just disappointed after that result,” Dludlu said. “We knew that we had to get better and find the next group of talented players which would see us reach our goal in the next World Cup qualifying rounds. We went around the country looking for the right talent which would match up to the kind of quality we were looking bring into our squad. We have those players now. We just qualified for the World Cup and our goal is to see us being more sharper in our play before we head off there (Uruguay).”
In this upcoming global football event, Bantwana will lock horns with national sides such as Japan, Mexico and Brazil with the hope of reaching the knockout stages of the competition for the first ever since their involvement in the competition. Dludlu stated that the recent BRICS tournament, where Bantwana finished third following three successive matches played in the event, served as a perfect start to their preparations leading to the Uruguay World Cup edition.
“We’ll be playing against quality sides in our group (Group B) matches there, there’s no doubt about that,” Dludlu said. “And that’s why we’ve decided to play good number of friendly matches before we travel to Uruguay. Nothing is confirmed as yet, however, we’ll continue to keep our public updated. We’ve already started gathering as much information as we can about our opponents. And that’s because we really want to do good there.”