When Banyana Banyana qualified for their maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup that took place in France, goalkeeper Andile Dlamini was the second choice goalkeeper in the squad.
The qualification came in December 2018, but by June, when the World Cup kicked off, she had claimed the number one jersey as her own.
She says she made a lot of sacrifices to get to that stage, and worked hard too.
The debut tournament for Banyana Banyana was held between 7 June and 7 July 2020.
Dlamini takes us down memory lane…
You won’t believe this, but I still get excited when I talk about it – it is as if it happened yesterday.
The feeling was the most incredible in my life, having to represent your country at such a big stage in such a wonderful country like France, was just out of this world. The weather was kind to us as it was warm and the people there were amazing.
I learnt a lot to play under pressure and also be calm, I learnt to fight harder, to work as a team.
I am extremely happy that I was one of the chosen few selected to represent my country in a World Cup tournament and I would like to thank the Lord for giving me the opportunity.
I would also like to thank coach Desiree (Ellis), all the goalkeeper coaches who have worked with me towards the dream of being at a World Cup and playing in the tournament.
I remember how worked hard before the tournament – I was in Bloemfontein for my December holidays where I was training under coach Sean (Bloemfontein Celtic) because I had a dream to go to the World Cup and play there.
That dream came true and I appreciate what he did for me – he pushed me very hard, and I will forever be grateful.
I want to also thank everyone who worked me along the way – especially my team Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies.
I can never take back that moment, it’s a feeling no one can take away from us. We were there and we experienced everything and came out as warriors.
We fought for our country according to the best of our abilities.
Although we did not get to the next stage we learnt a lot, especially from these big footballing nations who play professionally day in day out.
By virtue of being at the World Cup, opportunities opened up for Banyana Banyana, and that on its own is great, it is a huge achievement.
We now have several players on the books of clubs overseas (France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Belarus, Albania, Turkey) and that means a lot.
When we went to go play the World Cup, we wanted to achieve a lot of things, and some we have, and it’s all thanks to the Lord for his mercy and grace.
I remember arriving in France, and I had goose bumps and I said to myself – “this is the day that the Lord has made, we shall rejoice and be glad in it,” (Psalm 118:24 Ed).
I remember our first game against Spain – we scored our first goal in a FIFA World Cup, it was just amazing. The celebration, I remember bowing down because it was a wonderful goal from Thembi Kgatlana – how it was created and how it came about was just awesome.
I remember everything about that period like it was yesterday, even though it is a year now – such memories no one can take away.
If I were to relive the moment, I don’t think I would take anything back, it happened the way it was supposed to happen. Of course we wanted to win, but God’s way is not our way, we can never change it and we have learnt a lot from all that.
I remember how we played against Germany in the final group stages match in Montpellier, how we fought until the end of the game, we never gave in and battled to the last minute. I saw a great team spirit in that match.
I also saw tears while we were playing and I was one of those with tears on my face – but it was tears of joy, saying we are playing as a unit, and we are not just rolling over but we are fighting hard even though things were not going our way. But you could see the passion and the determination on everyone.
As a goalkeeper you can see almost everything because everyone is in front of you. I saw the hunger of wanting to win the match, it was just amazing, and makes me emotional just thinking about it.
I would also like to appreciate all the technical team members and support staff who made sure that we were well prepared and well equipped for the task at hand, our Association and our proud sponsor Sasol for the great support they gave us from long before qualifying – we appreciate that.
It is said that dreams come true only in fairy tales – but we lived our fairy tale and saw our dreams come true.
We will always be grateful for gracing the world stage, and vow to return again someday.
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