SAFA : Never give up on your dreams – Amanda Dlamini
In the 60th minute of the international friendly match against the USA Senior Women’s National Team, Banyana Banyana midfielder Amanda Dlamini took to the field replacing Linda Motlhalo.
The South Africans went on to lose 1-0 to a Crystal Dunn strike scored in the first half.
The Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana won admiration from many who watched the game for the gallant display against the Olympic and World Champions who are also the top-ranked nation in women’s football.
But more praise was reserved for Dlamini as she made her Dl appearance for South Africa.
She now joins her captain Janine van Wyk (131), Nompumelelo Nyandeni (125) and Noko Matlou (124) as well as the retired Portia Modise (124) on a century or more appearances.
Banyana Banyana are back in the country and now getting ready to travel to Brazil for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games later this month.
SAFA Media caught up with Dlamini to get her thoughts on the journey that started in 2007.
Full Names: Amanda Sinegugu Dlamini
Place of Birth: Harding, Kwazulu Natal
Date of birth: 22 July 1988
Current Club: JVW FC
Club History: Durban Ladies, University of Johannesburg
Honours: Danone Brand Ambassasor, Jockey Brand Ambassador, Tsogosun Brand Ambassador, 2014 World Student games in Russia as Captain, 2013 Varsity Football Champions (UJ) , 2012 London Olympics (CAPT), 2012 & 2008 AWC Runners up, MVP AWC 2010, Banyana Banyana Captain 2011- 2013, 2008 Sasol top goal scorer of National Championship, 2007 World Student games in Bangkok.
Banyana Banyana debut: v Nigeria (Olympic qualifier in 2007)
1st international goal: 2-1 loss to Netherlands in 2008
2016 Olympic Qualifiers: 6 (v Gabon, v Kenya and v Equatorial Guinea and 1 goal scored against Gabon at home)
Ambition: To become a business women, a sports analyst (goal reached) and to see the success of my
foundation (The Amanda Dlamini Girls Foundation)
Favourite local Player: The late Gift Leremi
Favourite International Player: Yaya Toure
Favourite local club: Amazulu
Favourite club abroad: Manchester City
Favourite Music: Gospel and R’n B
Educational Background: Diploma in Road Transport Management (specialisation in freight)
Matlhomola Morake: Congratulations on your 100 caps, getting it against America. How do you feel?
Amanda Dlamini: Thank you, it is a dream come true. Ever since I was a young girl growing up, coming to America was just my dream. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would achieve my 100th cap in America, playing against America the number one ranked team in the world in women’s football. It is really overwhelming but I really applaud myself for the patience and the persistence I had back then towards my career, which really carried me this far.
MM: What came to mind when you were warming up and then took the field as a substitute?
AD: Actually nothing was going on in my mind at the time about the caps, and I just saw someone injured and I was thinking when I come on I need to make an immediate impact because we were trailing 1-0. I thought if I work extra hard maybe we can force a positive result, unfortunately it was not to be. Only after 90 minutes did my teammate and fellow midfielder Mpumi Nyandeni come to me to say hey you got your 100, and I was like ‘oh yes’. I almost forgot about it because I always put what I do first ahead of everything.
MM: How would you sum up the performance of the team?
AD: The team did extremely well under the circumstances, we were under pressure, and bear in mind we were playing the Olympic and World Champions. It just shows that we are able to believe, we have the courage to stand firm in what we believe in and have worked hard on. It was really good and obviously there is a still a lot that we have to polish and fine-tune, but I think that also comes with time. It is a process, and as it is closer to the Olympics this was the game that we really needed to gauge ourselves.
MM: It’s been a long journey for you, how did it all begin?
AD: It started in 2006 in QwaQwa when there were playoffs and the then Banyana Banyana coach Makalakalane was there to scout for talent and he spotted me. He saw something in me I never thought I had but I think he saw potential. He called me the following year to come to the national team but unfortunately I could not travel with the team because I had no passport. So I had to wait until I was called up for the next one – which was big, the Olympic qualifier against Nigeria and I played in that one match. I did not play in 2008 and 2009, just travelling with the team. It was very frustrating and at some stage I even thought of quitting because I thought there were better players that were there and who am I to just walk in and occupy a spot. But I constantly prayed about it and said to myself maybe I can make something out of this football career, let me give it a try, so I exercised patience and was determined to work hard.
MM: 24 goals in 100 appearances, not a bad return for a midfielder?
AD: It’s not bad at all. I think many coaches would see a player and see them as versatile. I started as a striker and at some stage I scored in every game and it seemed like I was going to be on 50 very soon but then obviously you also grow and other coaches come in and have other philosophies, they see something special when they play you in different positions. I think I am one of the few players who have rotated quite a lot on the field, but I have always had this belief that I need to work hard no matter where I am placed on the field.
MM: Do you remember your first game as captain?
AD: It was against Zimbabwe, I was a bit confused, and excited at the same time. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know what to expect. A lot of people had to guide me as to what to do – that I needed to toss the coin, shake hands and basically relay information from the coaches to the players. And also after the game I didn’t know how to handle interviews. But I was fortunate because during one camp Sasol brought someone who educated us on how conduct interviews, how to handle media questions and I think it was from there that I got my guideline in terms of holding it down for the leadership position I occupied.
MM: You seemed to excel and enjoy yourself as captain, but then you stepped down. What happened?
AD: I gave it a lot of thought, I saw that my commitment towards football was one-sided, and I was still a student at the time, so I needed to balance the equation. In order for me to do that, to focus on my studies and get the marks that I really needed, I had to step aside from the leadership role which demanded that I do a whole lot of things in an extensive manner but also taking personal issues of players, trying to help where I could because I am that kind of person. So for me stepping down was a way of focusing my energies on my school work until I graduate – fortunately that’s what happened and I got distinctions also. I then thought to myself a career in football mixed with education can actually work, and that’s when I started motivating other players not to give up on their education but do the two simultaneously.
MM: As one of the senior players, has you role changed though since stepping down?
AD: I don’t think so, because being a captain is not just about the armband, its also how you treat other people – your mannerism and how you interact with the rest of your teammates and also the people who support you outside. Some people still relate to me as the captain. It comes naturally to me to approach people in the manner that I do and sometimes people think it’s overwhelming but you can never get tired of people who constantly support and motivate you. I still try to be there for my teammates when they need me, but we know protocol says they must go to the captain.
MM: Remember you best match?
AD: I am very hard on myself and for that reason I don’t think I have ever had my best match. If you think about it, out of the 100 appearances, I have only won the Diski Queen (Player of the Match) award only once and that was at the Dobsonville Stadium. The other match would be against Algeria in the African Women’s Championship where I believe I had a good tournament in 2014. Those moments stand out for me.
MM: Most memorable game?
AD: It has to be this 100th game against the USA. It doesn’t overshadow every other game I have played but just reaching a century of caps when not a lot of women footballers have not done so, is just truly amazing. And to join the elite group of Janine (131), Mpumi (125), Noko (124) and Portia (124) is a blessing. But also playing the world champions because Banyana Banyana has never in their history played against the USA – so it just feels like another memorable history moment for me as it also comes on my birthday month. This one definitely has to be memorable.
MM: What words do you have for players who look up to you, even those in Banyana Banyana?
AD: I believe the players in the national team are matured enough to understand the situation that we face as women footballers, so my message would be to say to the young ones it is important that they go to school and get educated. The responsibility is with us who are already in the national team to be as transparent as we can be about the challenges that we face and at the same time not be shy to highlight the good moments and honours we have gained from this game – like travelling the world because of your talent, fighting poverty and any social ills that we face as women through sport. We are where we are because of sport, whoever has a talent out there should not hide it because it can get you to places you never dreamed of.
MM: Two Olympics qualification, that is quite an achievement?
AD: It’s quite a huge achievement. Qualifying for the second time, knowing it’s the biggest sporting spectacle in the world, makes it more amazing and I am really excited about that. The think
MM: You have a large fan base, your words to them.
AD: I am really grateful for all the support they have given me over the years. A lot of people would contact me via social media just to encourage me to keep going. And sometimes we think that fans don’t know what they are talking about but I have take a lot of advice from them, I have also take positive criticism and as an athlete you need to find a balance of what to take or what not to take but I really appreciate their words of encouragement in my worst times, when I am not playing that good and their support when I am doing well. Even celebrating these 100 appearances means more to them than to me, I fell. I am just happy and proud that I can give South Africa something to be happy about in these trying time in our country – just celebrating women achievement and women footballers and heroes.
MM: What for you would the greatest achievement for women’s football in the years to come?
AD: For us in South Africa to have a proper development structure and we rope in a lot of girls – be they u13, u15 all the way to the senior team – that we can look at nations like the USA and try to implement those structures for women’s football. If we can start there, there is no doubt in my mind that we will one day have a professional league because teams will be competitive enough, and the Sasol league will not struggle with quality they have right now but their work has been astounding, it has been amazing that they have supported women’s football. Even if people thought there is not hope for women’s football they have been able to resuscitate and give us that hope that we can achieve our dreams – I mean look at us now, I am on a 100 caps because of Sasol organising so many games for the national team and took care of us at club level. For the national team, players would take forever to reach this milestone because they would play five games a year, so are the kind of people we should thank. Not forgetting SAFA, the custodians of football who make sure we get these games and are able to play them and be remunerated afterwards.
MM: Does Amanda Dlamini still wants to play overseas?
AD: Of course I do, there is not player who doesn’t want to play there, but it’s not something that is on my mind. I just focus on the task at hand and if it happens it will happen, but if not I always say my sights is on other things I still need to achieve before I move on.
MM: How would you compare your first and your 100th game?
AD: In fact the there are a lot of similarities. It was in 2007, and back then I remember I was still little girl that was very nervous but eager to play. I remember I came on as a sub. We were playing Nigeria, the number one ranked team on the continent and they hammered us 5-0 in an Olympic qualifier. Fast forward to 2016 – we are playing the USA, the number one ranked nation in the world, I came on as a sub and we lost 1-0. This time we have already qualified for the Olympics but the game is to prepare for the tournament – quite a coincidence. But the game has changed quite a lot, it is faster and tactical compared to way back then. And obviously I have grown as a player and am more matured. We now have a lot more talent coming through, the competition for places is also tough but all of this is good for the game.
MM: 100 caps already, what else can we expect?
AD: I can safely I am still around so there’s still more to come.