The lively first-timers from South Africa learned a hard lesson about world football and ruthless German efficiency. “It was a really bad loss and we can’t be shy about saying it,” said head coach Solomon Luvhengo as his girls, fresh from a tournament-record 10-1 drubbing, wandered around the Dwight Yorke stadium wondering how it all went so wrong so fast. “We gave them a little too much respect.”
Luvhengo is a man who loves to express himself, whether leaning in close to talk about his country’s football or his team, or dancing in light pre-game sessions with his young charges. “I like to dance,” he laughs with a wide smile speaking to FIFA.com. “When you are a youth coach you can’t be tense all the time. If you do this the players start to feel the pressure. So I like to have fun with them, keep it loose and dance. You have to keep their spirits up.”
‘Solly’, as Luvhengo is called around the camp, is an optimist in his bones. Before the game with Germans on Wednesday he felt his girls, who were competitive and entertaining in their opening loss to Korea Republic, had a fighting chance. “It’s clear Germany are a team that have been together for years. We, unfortunately, are not.” The European powerhouses, owners of both the U-20 and senior Women’s World Cup trophies, were 5-0 up inside 30 minutes.
Had Mapula Kgoale not ballooned her penalty kick over the bar in the fifth minute of the opener with the Koreans, or Jermaine Seoposenwe taken a few more of her chances in the 3-1 loss, things might well have been different. “We should have won that first game,” the coach strained, thinking back to chance after chance wasted. “The fixture list worked against us too,” he went on in a noisy corner of the stadium on the outskirts of Scarborough, Tobago’s capital. “I am sure we will beat Mexico in our last game, but if we had met them first we could have gained momentum and confidence,” he added, his half-smile telling of things that might have been.
Far from meaningless, though, the coach sees the final Group B contest against CONCACAF side Mexico as crucial to the team’s development, for the future of South African women’s football. “It is about pride,” said Luvhengo. “We know what it feels like to lose a World Cup match, and it is vital that we leave knowing what it feels like to win one.” You can see a pride in his charges clearly in his face and the way he speaks of them, of Robyn Moodaly always pushing into the attack, the brawny Seoposenwe roving and looking for openings, of the whole lot of debutants.
“It is brilliant. What these kids are experiencing here is tremendous, playing great teams and learning the game. You can never take that away from them,” he went on. When they line up on Monday, Trinidad and Tobago 2010 will have their last glimpse of the hard-running, improvising and charming young ladies from the rainbow Nation of South Africa. If coach Luvhengo’s enthusiasm and spirit are anything to go by, it won’t be long before we see them on the world stage again. Asked if he will be dancing before the game in Couva, he laughs. “Hopefully I will be dancing after the game, after we beat Mexico!”