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Tiisetso scared, but looking forward to Afcon challenge

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“I feel very happy to be here. It is a great honour to be sharing the dressing room with some of the players I have always looked up to,”

LEARNING CURVE: Tiisetso Makhubela says that being part of the Banyana Banyana team has helped her grow as a player. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana defender Tiisetso Makhubela, who is in the national women’s squad at the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations tournament in Ghana, is living the dream.

Makhubela is the second youngest player in the squad but is a strong candidate to be included in the team’s opening match against Nigeria on Sunday. Earlier this year the 21-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies defender, who was born in Pretoria, could not have imagined how things would have turned out.

Makhubela’s football journey started in 2008 as a nine-year-old when she played the game for fun against boys in her hometown, Mabopane/Soshanguve.

“While having a kick-about with the boys, I was spotted by former Banyana Banyana player Lebogang Mabatle when I featured in a seven-a-side tournament for a club called Torino.

“She then recruited me to join Hallelujah Zebra Force, and from there things started going in the right direction for me,” says Makhubela. “Then in 2013 I attended trials for the South African Under-17 women’s team and was one of those selected to the squad. I played for Bantwana against Zambia – we lost that match at home and in the away leg we drew 3-3.”

Earlier this year, while still at Zebra Force, they took on Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies and she caught the eye of the opposition coach who brought her to Chloorkop.

While playing against Sundowns, Banyana coach Desiree Ellis noticed Makhubela’s talent during one of the Sasol League Roadshows.

Makhubela was invited by Ellis to a training camp – leading to her selection in the final squad for the 2018 Afcon in Ghana.

“I feel very happy to be here. It is a great honour to be sharing the dressing room with some of the players I have always looked up to,” said Makhubela.

“The players have helped me to settle in quickly as they motivate me a lot and are constantly offering advice They really contribute to my growth as a player.”

Bastos, as she is called in the team, says she had to make some adjustments in terms of training as the level was very different to what she was accustomed to.

“It took some serious adjusting to get to grips with the training sessions. Here you have to bring your A-game all the time or you will struggle. You have to be quick on the ball to survive, as they don’t give you breathing space. But so far I have adapted and am starting to enjoy myself,” added Makhubela.

She hasn’t rested on her laurels, however, and says that her first match for Banyana Banyana in the international friendly last Sunday in Accra, was very scary. She came on for Van Wyk in the second half.

“When the coach told me to go warm up I had butterflies in my stomach. And as I was getting ready to come on, I had to calm myself down and say now is the time, I have to be ready. In fact, even after playing that match I am still scared ahead of this tournament – my first major event in my football career,” said Makhubela.

“As the kick-off approaches, my heart is racing but I am looking forward to the challenge. Given a chance, I will do the best I can to help the team win, and my greatest wish is to play some part in this tournament. I can’t wait for our first match on Sunday against Nigeria.

“Without a doubt it is going to be tough, but I am confident we will do well because there is a lot of determination in the team. If we can do well and qualify for the World Cup that would be our biggest achievement.”