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Banyana’s final fling

Banyana Banyana will be out to end 2011 on a winning note, when they take on Zimbabwe in a Unity Cup friendly international fixture at the Rufaro Stadium, in Harare on Thursday.

South Africa’s head coach Joseph Mkhonza will have fond memories of last year’s Unity Friendly match in the Zimbabwe capital. It marked his first game in charge of the Banyana Banyana which has since progressed to a run of 12 wins and a draw in his 15 games in charge of the national team

ÔÇ£Banyana Banyana’s successful qualification campaign for the 2012 London Olympics was without doubt the highlight of 2011 for the senior women’s national team, but our players will be looking to set the record straight having been beaten by Zimbabwe in the COSAFA Cup tournament in Harare in July,ÔÇØ said Mkhonza.

ÔÇ£But I believe the Banyana Banyana squad has come a long way since our last trip to Harare and I would like to thank our team sponsor Sasol and SAFA for their continued support in ensuring that the national team is able to play in sufficient matches and partake in regular training camps.ÔÇØ

US-based goalkeeper Roxanne Barker has made the trip back to her homeland to be a part of the travelling party ÔÇô the first time that she has been available to the national side since July last year.

Cindy Meyer, who plays for Tuks Sport in the Gauteng Sasol League, has also been included with the coach likely to make a call between her and Zama Cele, for the central defensive position alongside Amanda Sister. The position is vacant with Janine van Wyk having withdrawn from the travelling party due to illness.

ÔÇ£The players trained hard during the national camp held in Gauteng recently, and with the coach watching all players as far as places in the final team for the Olympics is concerned, it’s up to each player to deliver their best to remain in contention for final selection,ÔÇØ said Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini.

ÔÇ£Banyana Banyana has fond memories of beating Zimbabwe 3-0 in last year’s Unity Cup Friendly International. But as we found out in going down 1-0 to the hosts in the COSAFA Cup tournament in Harare in July this year, Zimbabwe are an ever-improving side and will be tough to outplay in front of their home fans. We cannot focus on Zimbabwe, we need to concentrate on our own play and hopefully will come away with the win on Thursday.ÔÇØ

Banyana Banyana’s Russia-based roving midfielder, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, is expecting a life-fulfilling week.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Before flying to join her teammates the unassuming Mpumalanga-born player was offered a one-year extension by her Russian side, Rossiyonka after another sterling season.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿As if that is not enough, Thursday might be a defining moment for the tiny midfielder.

She has also been nominated as the candidate for the 2011 CAF Woman Player of the Year.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿The results will be known on the same day Banyana Banyana meet Zimbabwe in the Unity Cup in Harare. The South African Senior women’s national team has also been nominated for the Team of the Year award at the same ceremony in Accra, Ghana.

ÔÇ£It might turn out to be a golden Thursday for me and the girls. But for now, I am not even thinking of who will win that coveted title in Ghana. I am more concerned about playing a leading role in helping my side beat Zimbabwe, and other things will take care of themselves,ÔÇØ she said on the sidelines of a training session at the Rufaro Stadium, the venue of Thursday’s grudge encounter.

Nyandeni said she was enjoying life in the Russian capital of Moscow and would encourage other African players to give this part of Eastern Europe a try. ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿ÔÇ£Football is more organised and structured there. Apart from the sometimes biting cold, which is at its peak now, I am having a blast in Russia. The food is fine, I have made lots of friends from other parts of Europe like Romania and Sweden. Generally, I can’t complain, though I miss family and friends back in South Africa,ÔÇØ she said.

Looking ahead at the Olympic Games in London next year, Nyandeni said getting past the group stages would be a phenomenal achievement for Banyana Banyana.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿ÔÇ£Then we can start taking one game at a time. The game of football is unpredictable. People talk of us going there to make up numbers but that is what everyone said about the Japan women’s team which stunned the world when they won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany 2011,” she added.

She said if a few of the Banyana Banyana players could get exposure of playing in Europe, that will help uplift the confidence and spirits of the side.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿ But for now, her focus is to help Banyana Banyana ‘wallop Zimbabwe’ come Thursday.


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