- South Africa return to FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup for first time since 2010
- Head coach Simphiwe Dludlu contextualises their achievement
- "We want to give hope to those that do not believe in themselves"
When South Africa secured their place at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018 one of the first people to embrace Sibulele Holweni down past the corner flag after she scored a spectacular 40-yard volley was coach Simphiwe Dludlu. As soon as Holweni's wonderful shot rippled the net, Dludlu was already running at pace down the touchline to congratulate her and to participate in a choreographed dance.
South Africa are returning to the U-17 Women’s World Cup for the first time since their inaugural participation at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, when they lost all three group-stage games.
In head coach Dludlu, they have someone who was born to motivate. FIFA.com caught up with her ahead of the tournament to contextualise South Africa's achievement and to understand her coaching philosophy.
FIFA.com: What does this opportunity mean for the country and the women's programme?
Simphiwe Dludlu: The opportunity to go and compete in the World Cup after seven years and only the second time in history of women’s football in our country is unbelievable. This milestone is a pat on the back to all stakeholders involved in the development of the women’s game in this country. This is motivation for us as a country to keep working hard and to keep raising the bar higher by demanding more from ourselves. It simply means we are on the right track, though there is still room for improvement.
You are the first South Africa senior women's team player (63 caps) to coach a team to a World Cup for your country. What are your objectives as a coach at Uruguay 2018?
I want to go out there and learn as much as I can, take in the experience and mix it with my own expertise to be a better coach and individual. I want to challenge myself to grasp the standard of world coaching trends and the behaviour of coaches at high-level competitions. I want to display the best of me and to showcase my qualities in representing each player on my team with confidence.
You are a motivational speaker, a dancer and are clearly a huge source of energy for the team. How do you motivate the teams you coach? Can you give us some insight into some of your strategies and philosophies?
The most important thing for me is always to state clearly that giving up is never an option, and I always promise to give them hard work and full commitment. I am old school, so hard work is the only thing I know. I motivate them by being part of them. We play together on and off the field. I always strive for them to see the best and worst of me so that they are able to separate the two and understand the journey of greatness and hunger to adapt and rise to different occasions. They know they have a mentor, friend, sister and advisor in me.
How can this South Africa team go on to inspire a whole new generation of players in the country?
We have proved that it is all possible to go fight to get a chance to compete at the highest level, that it is possible to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and still have dreams come true. We want to inspire every young girl out there that has the dream to play, we want to give hope to those that do not believe in themselves. We want to validate that we are talented as a nation. Hard work, dedication and discipline are key areas that will always influence our success. We might not be one of the leading countries in women’s football, but we have the ability to rise and realise our greatness.