Simphiwe Dludlu speaks about different issues in the women's game as Banyana Banyana prepare for the World Cup

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Dludlu, who coached the Under 17 team that made it to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup late last year, speaks to Nozibusiso Sibiya about what Banyana needs to perform and how sponsors Sasol are playing a big role in the women's game.

KO: How different is the current Banyana Banyana squad compared to the one you played in?
There isn’t much difference between us and the current Banyana team, except a few things. We played like our lives depended on it because we knew that it was the only platform to get recognised. We did not get easy opportunities to go overseas. We did not have as much support as the current team but we fought for each other on that field.

Do you think receiving sponsorship from a big cooperate company like Sasol has inspired the players to work even harder?
A team with a sponsor has the power to do more. There is more marketing, support and exposure. When Sasol came on board there were drastic changes. We ended up with a much better run league that was unearthing talent around SA and giving girl children a leap to leap of making it one day. Sasol gives women’s football hope therefore working hard is part of daily activity for teams, individuals and even team owners because they see a bright future.

You have World Cup experience as you were coaching under 17s in the competition last year, so what advice would you give to the players and the technical team?
The biggest advice I would give to the team and the technical team is that a team with the greatest character on the battle field will always come out victorious. Quality preparation does not guarantee you success but it improves the chances and potential to succeed.

You once spoke against hiring international coaches, why do you think it’s important for a national team to be coached by a local coach?
I never spoke against hiring foreign coaches but made it a fact that whoever has an opportunity to coach Banyana Banyana must understand the type of people we are. South Africa is a diverse nation, we have different cultures, our socio economic backgrounds offer us different upbringing and beliefs. It makes it easy when a local coach takes the ropes because they know the culture of football in South Africa. They know where to find talent, they understand our history and certainly will know how to manage these different individuals. If a foreign coach is in charge they need to do all their home work and work very closely with relevant people and open room to fully understand who we are, work well with everyone involved to help him/her to achieve the best from the team.

Desiree Ellis has done a great job with Banyana Banyana, what do you think is her secret to building such a strong team?
Desiree has played the game before and captained Banyana, she understands what it means not to have a sponsored team, not to be paid for playing and certainly how a player feels at that level. I think her secret is hard work on and off the field. She is strict and sticks to her guns.

A lot of players are going overseas now. Is this giving Banyana a chance of competing against the best in the world?
The number has improved which is a positive sign for us. The more opportunities our players get in the highest leagues in the world the better for the national team. It means we grow in experience and level of competing. We will each greater standards.

Should we be worried after the team did not win a group match at the Cyprus Cup?
We always worry when the team does not do well, especially in big tournaments. But we must not forget that there is a lot more to consider when you want a team to excel at the highest level in the world. We need more training camps, trips overseas to play against tough opponents. We do not have a professional league therefore our exposure is not as good as the rest of the world that has better structures with players competing in the highest leagues around the world regularly.

You coach under 17s and making it to the World Cup means you built a confident team. How do you instill confidence in young players(girls) on and off the field?
You cannot buy confidence for a start. Players with character are easy to influence to believe in themselves. Working with young players is extremely difficult because they trying to find their footing and themselves as they are still in exploring phase. The biggest thing I drive is for me to be confident in myself first. Always find positives in each individual and work from there. Be as realistic as possible with players from the beginning and find out what keeps them motivated and vice versa. Understand each player to help them see their importance in the team and what being confident means in a greater scheme of things. I motivate them as much as I can and show them that I care and why they must be proud or work towards making themselves proud on and off the field.