04 October 2018 – Banyana Banyana centre-back Bambanani Mbane only got to play on a grass pitch when she was 20 years old.

Prior to that, her feet merely knew the sandlots and gravel pitches of Sterkspruit – a village she grew up in that is located in the Eastern Cape.

Mbane, who traveled with the Banyana Banyana squad that is set to take on Chile in two friendly matches on Saturday 6 October and Tuesday, 9 October 2018, admitted that it took a lot of self-belief to get herself out of an environment that was not conducive to fulfilling her life’s dreams, goals and ambitions.

“If you notice most of my Instagram posts, there is a hash tag I frequently use, which is ‘Nolali’,” Mbane says.

“Nolali simply means ‘village girl’ in Xhosa, and the message which I am trying to get across with that hash tag is: It does not matter where you come from. Anybody can be whatever they want in life. You just have to believe,” said the star.

That mental approach of believing in herself and what she can offer on the pitch for both club and country, is what the now 28-year-old Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies FC centre-back carries with her to this very day.

That is mainly because such an approach has worked wonders for her. After joining Celtic back in 2010, not a season has gone by without her playing a part in helping her mother club scoop the Sasol League provincial title. She has also proved to be a consistent feature in the two Sasol League National Championship finals, which Celtic won back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.

However, it is 2017 in which Mbane states that she felt the most favoured by the footballing gods.

“It was an incredible year for me. I received the Players’ Player of the Tournament and Player of the Tournament titles in the Sasol League National Championships. I also won the COSAFA Women’s Championship with Banyana Banyana, while also being named the Player of the Match in the final against Zimbabwe. It was just an amazing year,” enthused Mbane.

She is hoping to have more blissful experiences in her life, particularly with the South African Senior Women’s National Team. The centre-back’s ultimate goal is to help Banyana Banyana secure a place in their first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance. A top three finish in this year Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana, which will run from 17 November to 1 December 2018, will see the senior national women’s side achieving that feat.

“Defending this year’s COSAFA Women’s Championships was a step in the right direction for us. We now have two friendly matches against Chile, which I believe will provide us with the challenge required to help us prepare adequately, leading up to this year’s Women’s AFCON tournament. We really want to do well there,” she said.

The player also has overseas ambitions.

“Earning a move abroad is one personal goal I will not let go off. I really want that,” concluded Mbane.