Ronaldo’s rallying cry

Getting closer: Nkutlwisang’s charges are on course to qualify PIC: BFA
Getting closer: Nkutlwisang’s charges are on course to qualify PIC: BFA

The Mares’ coach, Gaolethoo ‘Ronaldo’ Nkutlwisang is determined to leave no stone unturned as she chases the country’s first ever Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) qualification.

Ronaldo and the team are just 180 minutes away from a historic moment. A move by continental football governing body, CAF to increase teams to 12 for the 2022 AWCON has opened possible doors for Mares.

The Mares have to play only two rounds of qualification to reach the tournament. In the first round, the Mares were in a menacing mood away to Angola, beating the home side 5-1 in the first leg, their biggest win in the qualifiers. The return leg was played at the Obed Itani Chilume Stadium on Tuesday where the Mares cantered to a 2-0 victory to advance to the second and last round of qualification on a 7-1 aggregate score.

The Mares will now face a familiar opponent in the Mighty Warriors of Zimbabwe. The two teams will meet between February 14 and 23 over two legs to determine who takes a spot among the 12 teams in Morocco. The Mares will be away in the first leg. Speaking to Mmegi Sport, Nkutlwisang said the preparations for the two games should be doubled. She highlighted the need for the team to play more international friendlies to keep the players active since there has not been a decision on the local leagues. “We had submitted our plan to the BFA, I think we will need to revisit the plan and see if we can make adjustments.

We broke the team’s camp this week and we have given players a programme to follow. We do not know when the leagues will start but the national team players should follow the plan on their own. The other thing is that we will see if we could have friendly matches that will be very important. We will look at possibly neighbouring countries, the likes of Namibia, Zambia and see if we could maybe have a four nations tournament. That would help us prepare for Zimbabwe,” she said. Ronaldo has been at the helm of the team for close to a decade now. The team under her watch has turned from the ‘whipping girls of Africa’ to a very promising side.

She masterminded a first final COSAFA Cup appearance in 2019 while a year earlier the team had reached the semi-finals for the first time. Still in 2019, Ronaldo’s girls dumped Banyana Banyana out of the 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers. A foreign-based contingent has increased to six players playing abroad. She told Mmegi Sport that the moment is now and pleaded with stakeholders to lend a hand for the Mares to be the only third national team to reach a continental tournament. “It is our wish to qualify for the AWCON.

We have been long building this team and now we believe it is the right moment for us to qualify for a tournament as big as the AWCON. This is down to sheer determination, the belief and the players we have had for a long time. I would like to call everyone, the government the private sector to lend a helping hand so we can take this team to the AWCON because the belief and capability are there,” she says.

Turning the focus to her opponents, Nkutlwisang said the poor record against the northern neighbours should not count the Mares out yet. “We have played against Zimbabwe before and the last we met they beat us.

We will need to go back to the (match) footage and analyse their weaknesses, to see where we can hurt them. Also, their strengths were what to guard against. I think when we face them we will be better prepared,” she said.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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