My name is Amanda Mthandi and this is my journey to Banyana Banyana.

A lot of us have different stories on how we started playing and what made us fall in love with the game. Most of us started playing with the boys at an early age and then eventually moved on to play with the girls in our teen years. The same happened for me before I joined Croesus Ladies in 2010, that’s where I met Lauren Duncan and started playing in the Sasol League. It wasn’t easy because at that time I was young and playing against players who were twice my age, but that didn’t bother me because I enjoyed playing the beautiful game.

Fast forward to 2012, when JVW was established and the start of the JVW School league. My school did not take part in the first year of the league, but I followed it on social media, wishing that I take part in the following one. I told my headmaster about it, but I had to make a deal with the school before he could agree to register the school’s team. I agreed to take part in all the athletics meetings that the school took part in.

It was finally time for the soccer season, I was very excited and couldn’t wait for our first match. Taking part in the league for the first time, we went unbeaten the entire season and I was voted best player of the league as well as top goal scorer. Later that same year I got a call-up to the U-20 National team in preparation for the World Cup Qualifiers and scored my first goal when we played against Botswana in the return leg of the qualifiers at the Bidvest stadium in 2013.

In 2014 we placed second in the league, losing to Reddam House in the finals. I was crushed because we lost, we wanted to retain the title as it was my senior year of high school, but although we were not crowned winners, I was still named the best player of the league and top goal scorer once again.

When I turned eighteen years old, I did my first soccer interview which was aired on Expresso, SABC3, and it was about the JVW School league. When the interview was aired, everyone at school was talking about it and I guess I became popular. Now looking back at the JVW school league, I can say it really was preparing me for the National Team, we also do interviews and sometimes it’s overwhelming because we aren’t used to it. It kind of feels like ‘’lights, camera, action’’ and you’re scared that you might say something that will embarrass you. Thanks to my time in the JVW league, I had already experienced this and obviously with time you finally get used to it and you don’t want to stop talking.

In 2018 I got my first call up for the senior team, Banyana Banyana. I didn’t make the team that took part in the Cosafa Cup that year and I was disappointed in a way because I felt like I didn’t give my all which might have been the reason for not being selected in the final Squad. I went back to the drawing board to try and figure out what was it that I didn’t do right. I started going to the gym and training twice a day because I got a taste of what it would be like to play for the Senior team. I got my second chance and I never looked back. I made the squad that took part in AWCON 2018 and we finished second to Nigeria. It felt like I was in a movie. I say that because it was my first tournament with the team, and we made history by qualifying for the Women’s World Cup in France. In 2019 we participated in the World cup as well as winning the COSAFA CUP. It shows that hard work does beat talent when talent fails to work.

The JVW School League has produced players that go on to play for the national team from youth development systems all the way to the Senior team (U-17 to the Senior team). I’m one of the players together with Kirsten Nolan, Jessica Wade and Sarah Walker just to mention a few players. All of us have represented the national team, and this shows that the JVW School League plays a big role in the development of women’s football in South Africa.

– Amanda Mthandi