30 June 2020 – When the South African Football Association (SAFA) declared the season over for the SAFA National Women’s League it brought total joy to the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, as they were crowned the inaugural winners of the competition.

But due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic sweeping across the world, the champions could not meet and celebrate their great milestone.

They won the Women’s League with an unassailable 63 points, followed by Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in second position nine points behind, while Bloemfontein Celtic Ladies came third on 40 points.

Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies and Banyana Banyana goalkeeper, Andile Dlamini, says while it looked easy, they were actually given a run for their money.

She adds that teamwork and discipline won the league for them.

Dlamini spoke to SAFA Media and this is what she had to say:

Congratulations on winning the inaugural SAFA National Women’s League. How is the feeling in the team after making history as the first side to win this league?

Honestly we are very excited, we are just over the moon, I don’t even have words for what I am feeling inside, and I guess it’s the same with my teammates wherever they are. We worked super hard to win the League and it makes us happy to see our hard work get rewarded. We are happy that in the end everything worked according to plan we are overjoyed as a team, and it is just unfortunate that we can’t celebrate because of Covid 19

Speaking about that, I know you would have wanted to celebrate but can’t due to the pandemic. How then did you celebrate personally, if at all?

I really would have loved to celebrate, I had this wonderful picture of us celebrating as a team – smiles all round, happiness, hugs, high fives – unfortunately it was not to be. Personally, I didn’t do much, I mean what can you do as an individual? I celebrated on social media by congratulating the team because of the hard work they put in, spoke about our success on the same platform and that was about it. Covid-19 denied us a chance to celebrate as a team, but what it can’t take away is that we are the champions!

Winning with such a margin, that must make the team proud

We worked hard as a team and once again I have to congratulate my teammates for that. We ensured that we open a huge gap to give ourselves breathing space during the season. I must admit we have been under pressure a lot of times, every team made us sweat and no game was easy but I am proud of how we fought until the end. We had a target and we achieved it. We knew how hard it was going to be but we stayed focused. I am also proud of the technical team for their hard work in preparing the team.

21 games unbeaten, that’s quite an achievement

Again, it was all down to hard work, and wining all the games was the cherry on top. We sat down as team to say how difficult the league was going to be and then we worked hard to get ready. We also had the togetherness, the spirit was high throughout the matches, and we motivated each other before, during and after play. This journey hasn’t been easy, we did a lot of extra work as individuals – and this played a huge role in us wining the league. It was just a bonus that we won it so comfortably. At some point we felt the pressure of not making it but we kept going and took each game as it came. After a while our mission was not to lose a game and it seemed possible, but we had to work extra hard to achieve that.

Which was the toughest game?

Without doubt all the game were tough, but the one that comes to mind and I will always remember was against First Touch Academy in Polokwane. They took a two-nil lead and we had to come from behind to win 3-2. That showed our fighting spirit and togetherness. That game was the most difficult as First Touch had us playing with our backs to the wall the entire first half. We kept on pushing and never gave up – so for me that was the toughest game.

82 goals and conceding only 12, shows great teamwork

It was great teamwork indeed, and we have always endevoured to do our best in every game. Conceding goals was one of the things we wanted to avoid because we know that if you don’t concede, then you have every chance of winning the game or at the very least getting a point out of it. It is unfortunate we conceded as the teams we faced were tough – there were times we won 1-0, in other games we came back from behind to win. We faced University of Western Cape in Cape Town and it was a tough match but the spirit in our camp was very high and we were not going to be denied. They played so well but we emerged winners after digging deep into our reserves to come out with three points.

What lessons were learnt in the first season?

To always work extra hard, especially when no one is watching. This comes in very handy when the going gets tough in matches. Remember there are no guarantees in games – when you walk onto the field you already have one point – so you can either add to it and walk away with three, or you can give it away and end up with nothing. We also learnt that there are no easy games, you need to be on top of your game at all times, and results will follow.

What can we expect next season?

You can expect the same hard work and discipline. We do our best and let God do the rest. We are a team that believes in hard work and teamwork.

What have you been up to since the suspension of football?

I have been training, writing and recording music. On the field, I have been working on my weaknesses and hopefully when we return to action my weaknesses will be my strength, and my strength will have improved. The fact is no one is perfect but you can work towards that target. I spend a lot of time at training because I want to better my trade, I cannot afford to relax. I also managed to create some exercises for myself and maybe someday you will see them. I have also been watching a lot of Television.

How much have you missed the game?

If we were to go back today, I would literally sleep on the pitch the whole day and wouldn’t want to leave. I have missed the game more than anything. I watch the English Premier League and I ask myself, when are we going back? But everything happens for a reason and there is a reason why we are not on the field and we have accepted that. For now we have to fight this pandemic together, so that it can be behind us and we can go back to our lives, to our passions. But yes, I really miss the game a lot.

Seeing the return of leagues in other countries, does that give you hope for the foreseeable future?

Oh yes it does, and on the other hand it also shows that the whole world is trying very hard to fight the coronavirus. I get motivated seeing other countries playing football and it says to me that sooner or later South Africa will be back in action. Soccer brings people together and helps us express ourselves when we play. It gives me pure joy and I believe it is going to come back soon, I am positive about it. I see these leagues in action and I get motivated. We must just wait for the right moment and boom we will be back again.

Your thoughts on Australia and New Zealand hosting the next World Cup

It is so wonderful for them to be hosting this tournament, but frankly I would have loved if it was us hosting. Australia and New Zealand are beautiful countries and will host an amazing and beautiful Women’s World Cup. Already, that tells us that we have to work extra hard to qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup as we want to be there again after the experience we had in France last year at the 2018 FIFA Women’s World Cup. I believe these two countries – Australia and New Zealand – are going to be great hosts. The onus is on us to join them and get to relive the joy of being in a World Cup tournament. We have tasted how things are done there – they are at a very high level – and we don’t want to miss that experience again. And for it to be hosted in two different countries should be an experience out of this world, and we want to be there. I am really looking forward to the qualifiers and I pray that we qualify and represent our country in a World Cup tournament again.