© BackpagePixAuthor: Dumisani Koyana“When chance meets fate, nothing can separate the two.”
This is the best way to describe the relationship between Andile Dlamini and Mamelodi Sundowns.
She came to Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team on trial as a striker and was given five minutes to prove herself. “I still remember that day when I came on trial, it was Coach Annah Monate who was at the helm and she said that I had only five minutes to show my mettle. I successfully recovered the ball from one player, dribbled my way, and scored. After that goal, I asked her how many minutes were left. That was how my journey at the club started at the tender age of 15” said Andile as she recollected her first taste of life with the Brazilians.

Sticks has been with The Brazilians Ladies team for thirteen years and has grown within the team. Remarkably, it was at the club where she transitioned from a striker to a goalkeeper. The positional swap happened because of a punishment. "I made a mistake in a game, I had a chance to score a goal with only the goalkeeper to beat and instead of scoring I did some showboating and the coach said he will punish me for that.”

Coach Brian Dube decided to teach Andile a positive lesson in respecting the game and decided to convert the head strong striker into a shot stopper. “I will not lie I was not okay after the game as I still wanted to bang in the goals. When I look at where I come from with the club and what I have achieved, I am grateful to the institution”, expressed Andile, “and that comes from the bottom of my heart.”

The soft-spoken Dlamini also touched on the fact that her love for the game of football was noticed by people from the community and it took someone from her neighbourhood to convince her mother that she can play the game. “At first it wasn't easy as my mom did not accept the fact that I played with boys. I needed soccer boots, so my friends fundraised so I could get boots without my mom's knowledge. The funny part is that one day she secretly came to watch me play and saw how happy I was on the field; and surprisingly, at the end of the month, bought me a pair of boots. That is how she approved of my participation. Today I can proudly say that I have purchased a piece of land where I am busy building a house for my family. All of this has been through the game of football and the support that my mom has given me from that day until today" declared the goalkeeper.

Her time at the club has seen her making giant strides in the game, from winning awards and trophies, to donning the colours of the National Team (Banyana Banyana); but the journey was not an easy one. She spoke about how she had to stay behind in Tembisa and not move to Durban with her family as her mother found work in that part of the country.

“My coach begged my mom to let me stay so that I can play for the club and he promised to take care of me. At that time women's football was not what it is today. Our Coach had to make ends meet so that we could have something to eat” she explained. “At the time, I was staying with Rhoda Mulaudzi, Refiloe “Fifi” Jane and Lungile Mthethwa. Just before matches on Fridays, Fifi and Rhoda, who were in varsity at the time, would bring us food when they visited. The close knitted friendship made us realise how much we loved the game. We made sure that we fought hard so we could make the National Team as there were incentives if you were called up. I was the first one to make it to the Banyana squad and with the cash I earned, I made sure everyone was entertained in the house. I went out and bought pies, pizzas and everything you can think of", an excited Sticks said.

She further went on to appreciate the club’s efforts in promoting women’s football, “Joining the Ladies Team was a motivation on its own. If it was not for Mamelodi Sundowns, I do not think I would be where I am today” she confessed. “Being here has given me confidence. I can stand out there and be counted amongst some of the best female footballers on the continent.” Due to their continuous dominance, the Brazilians have raised awareness of women's football in South Africa. “We are not where we want to be as female footballers but it is a process and the club has raised its hand in closing the gap."

The shot-stopper who currently resides in Soweto made her senior National Team debut in 2011 against Botswana in Polokwane and her half-century cap came against Lesotho in a friendly game played in March 2020. Andile has been to two Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016 in London and Rio respectively. She also donned the national colours at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup where she featured twice.

"The journey of football has paved and opened doors for me and I still hope that it will continue to do so. With the amount of hard work I put into the game, I know it will be reciprocated at the end” Andile said. “I want to be celebrated as a result of what I have given to the game. My journey of giving back to the community and the game has already started as I currently coach youngsters in my neighbourhood” she expressed. “When I started in the game, there wasn't anyone who was an elite athlete who mentored us and now I want to change the narrative” declared Dlamini.

Just recently, the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies Team won the COSAFA region qualifiers which were held in eThekwini and subsequently booked them a place in the first ever CAF Women’s Champions League taking place in November.

The goal minder missed out on the games due to a medical condition she is recovering from and spoke of her disappointment in missing out on the qualifiers. “It was very sad for me not to be part of the team after putting in a lot of work to be tournament ready. I really wanted to be there to represent my team and the country.”
Dlamini went on to applaud her teammates as they achieved a tremendous feat. She will surely be cheering them on with the rest of the Yellow Nation as the team gears up for the final showdown in the Land of the Pharaohs.