Two South African players that withdrew from the national set-up due to club commitments will not be accommodate when Banyana Banyana embark on an ambitious campaign to qualify for the 2019 FIFA World Cup in France.
Midfielder Amogelang Motau (Oral Roberts University, USA) and striker Ode Fulutudilu (ONS Oulu) Finland, both indicated to the national association that due to school and club commitments they would not be available for national duty.
Head coach Desiree Ellis expressed her disappointment about the failure to bring the duo into the camp which started on Sunday to prepare for the tournament that gets underway in Ghana on November 17, but added that their absence has given others an opportunity.
“Look, they are important players with massive experience,” admitted Ellis. “But I do not think it would be fair to bring them at the tournament when other players have been sweating and fighting to make the cut for the 21 players that would go to the finals.
Ellis has called up Sduduzo Dlamini (Sunflower FC) and Gabriela Salgado (JVW FC) respectively in the place of withdrawn Fulutudilu and Motau. The squad would be trimmed to 21 four days before departure for Ghana.
“We need to operate honestly and fair to the 31 players that have assembled in camp and out of them select the 21 players that would go to Ghana. We cannot automatically guarantee players that have not been part of the camp a position in the final.”
However, Ellis said an exception would be made for Refiloe Jane, the vice-captain of the national team who has just signed a professional contract with Rhoda Mulaudzi for Canberra United in the W-League in Australia.
Following the draw that paired them with Nigeria, Zambia and Kenya, Ellis said it did not matter who they had drawn in the tournament, the bottom line is that the team need to step up and come to the party irrespective of whether it should have been Ghana, Cameroon or Nigeria.
“If you really want to be at the World Cup,” said Ellis. “It goes without saying that you have to pitch up. Everybody wants to go to the World Cup in France and you cannot hope to qualify by wishing to avoid certain teams along the way. You have to beat the best to be among the best.”
Two international friendly matches against Chile away in which they lost 2-1 and then drew 2-2 has raised hopes and confidence within the camp that finally, after qualifying for almost every Cup of Nations but failing to progress to the World Cup, there can be no better chance than this.
In addition, Banyana Banyana retained the COSAFA Cup a few weeks ago and Ellis has been impressed by the progression of the team, but is mindful of the fact that they have to really step up a notch if they harbour dreams of qualifying for the World Cup.
“At the end of the Men’s tournament in Russia recently, the President of the SA Football Association (Danny Jordaan), shared some insight with me and informed me that if you are not in good physical condition at the World Cup, you have no chance,” recalled Ellis.
“And I agreed with him wholeheartedly. When you look back at the COSAFA Cup, Cameroon and other teams used to physically bully us off the ball. But this time around we were physically in good shape and that is how we won the tournament.
“In Chile it was the same thing. We need to be in the best physical shape of our lives to really compete. I know and everybody knows that we can play, we have the skills and we can pass the ball, but we need to complement our skill with conditioning.”
Banyana Banyana open the campaign against Nigeria on November 18 in the Gold Coast of Ghana, followed by Zambia three days later and a final group match against Kenya on November 24. They need to finish among the top three to qualify for the World Cup final in France.