Home Sport NC soccer sensation part of Bantwana team

NC soccer sensation part of Bantwana team

SA Under-17 Women national team hopeful Ponatshego Motlhabi. Pictures and video: Soraya Crowie

The Grade 11 youngster from Warrenton’s Mogomotsi High School received a call-up this week from the South African Football Association.

SIXTEEN year-old Ponatshego Motlhabi flew off to Johannesburg on Friday morning to present herself to the girls national Under-17 (Bantwana) soccer camp which took on Ethiopia in a World Cup qualifier later in the day.

The Grade 11 youngster from Warrenton’s Mogomotsi High School received a call-up this week from the South African Football Association (Safa) to join the girls Under-17 squad’s training sessions at its High Performance centre at Fun Valley, south Johannesburg.

Local talent scout and entrepreneur who is a retired footballer, Brenda Mafunisa, was on hand to explain that Motlhabi was discovered at the Northern Cape Women’s pre-season cup competition which they hosted in the Diamond City on March 26 at the Kimberley Boys High compound.

Football scout and enterpreneur Brenda Mafunisa with Ponatshego Motlhabi at the Windhoek Draught Park B ground. Picture: Soraya Crowie

At the event, the organisers had pulled together the best top 20 female players from the Sasol and regional league teams with the assistance of the provincial coach Wendy August and youth football development guru Kagiso “Spakes” Matile.

Mafunisa confirmed that the selectors also had the services on the panel of Don Mojaki who is an experienced coach accredited by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

“We generally aim at promoting and exposing our girls to opportunities such as these. We also had the Hollywoodbets teams here which are the women’s professional teams such as Richmond Ladies FC and Tsunami Queens FC from Qwaqwa who came in support.”

On Thursday afternoon Mafunisa took Motlhabi through a light training session with the assistance of the Sol Plaatje University’s senior men’s team at Windhoek Draught Park.

Motlhabi, who is the product of a football academy in Ikhutseng, Warrenton, said she was excited at the opportunity to join the national squad’s training camp. “I am excited, happy and experiencing a lot of mixed emotions about this so much so that I can’t really express myself clearly right now.”

Mafunisa said about Motlhabi’s call up: “It’s very exciting and a relief for us in the province. I think it will encourage other girls as well to work hard and up their game. Obviously now with women football being so popular opportunities for women will increase. The Provincial Government’s support for these kind of initiatives for women is also a big boost.

“The support from the Premier’s Office and the Northern Cape soccer academy is very encouraging. We are glad that one of our own from the Northern Cape’s pre-season women’s cup has been selected, especially seeing that it is an inaugural event. It was the first time that we actually composed this selection of 20 players.”

Motlhabi joined 25 other aspirant national team squad players who were whittled down to 25 for this assembly by coach Simphiwe Dludlu. However, Dludlu is reported to have expressed her misgivings about missing out on international practice matches in March due to the then reigning Covid-19 regulations. Instead they had to settle for playing against a local club.

The girls Under-17 squad, popularly referred to as ‘Bantwana’ assembled in Johannesburg on Friday. The junior girls squad progressed to the third round of the qualifiers after Fifa suspended the Kenyan football association from participating in all competitions citing the Kenyan Government’s interference in football issues.

The SA junior women’s squad is looking at securing their third World Cup qualification after having successfully done so in 2010 and 2018. This time India will host the Under-17 World Cup.

The Confederation of African Football will have three slots at the Fifa World Cup. A total 29 CAF member teams are vying for those slots.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Shifaah Hoosen, Kgomotso Musimanga, Casey Gordon.

Defenders: Mpho Dlamini, Portia Masilela, Adrielle Mibe, Geneva Jaftha, Ntando Phahla, Motshegwe Gositang, Nonzuza Buthelezi.

Midfielders: Kutlwano Maphane, Kananelo Taiwe, Mpho Nkadimeng, Mmabatho Mogale, Olwethu Sosibo, Rasego Masibi, Masabatha Mothapo, Daniella Segal, Sibongakonke Mzobe, Nomphelo Yakuphi, Asanda Mchunu.

Strikers: Khutso Mogano, Gugu Dlamini, Lumka Qhekeka, Ponatshego Motlhabi.

Coach: Simphiwe Dludlu

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