Koketso Tlailane says she is excited to be part of the Banyana Banyana team that is competing in Ghana at this year’s Africa Women Cup of Nations.
The senior women’s national team has an arsenal of weapons waiting on the sidelines to be given a chance to run on to the field, and Tlailane is definitely one of them.
The 25-year-old defender is one of the lesser-known players who made the cut into Desiree Ellis’ star-studded final squad of 21.
“It’s pretty exciting to be part of the team,” Tlailane said. “I always wanted to be part of a team that goes to this tournament and to compete against the best on the continent.”
Banyana started their Group B campaign on a great high, beating their rivals and 10-time champions Nigeria 1-0 in Cape Coast‚ Ghana, last Sunday.
They followed up with a 7-1 thrashing of Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday evening.
“Just to be part of the team means I am as good as all the other players,” said Tlailane.
But she admits that being a new player participating in a continental tournament comes with its own pressure.
Tlailane has already played for Banyana in the Cosafa tournament.
“Last year, I was in the Cosafa squad [in Zimbabwe], where I actually made my debut,” she said.
Just like other Banyana players who are stars on the soccer field, Tlailane also excels academically. The Pretoria-born player is a civil engineering student at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
“This is my final year at university. Last year, I still had things to catch up on that is why I couldn’t continue with the team.”
On the club football front, her team, TUT Ladies, have also been doing well – winning the Varsity Football tournament this year by beating the University of the Western Cape 2-1 in the final in September.
They have now won the competition a record five times on the trot.
TUT also finished at the top of the Gauteng Women’s League. After 30 matches, they won 27, drew one and lost just two. They finished on top of the Gauteng table with 82 points, one ahead of second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies FC.
The Sasol Women’s League is the countries’ premier women’s football league and comprises 144 teams that compete within the nine provinces.
“We will compete in the play-offs in the hope of grabbing a spot in the national league that starts next year,” she said.
The national play-offs will be hosted next month in the Northern Cape. The overall winning team gets R200 000.
Despite being a student, the former General Smuts High School pupil said she would prefer to play football full time when she completes her studies.
“Should it come to a point where I have to choose, I would pick football because I can always come back and pursue my academic studies and a professional career.”
With the World Cup in France next year, Tlailane’s dream to play against the best in the world might just become a reality. But Banyana will have to finish among the top three teams in the continent for that dream to come true.