Basetsana ready

If you were to randomly ask a soccer loving South African who Gloria Thato, Noko Matlou or Anna Monate are, your question will likely be met by a blank stare.

If you were to randomly ask a soccer loving South African who Gloria Thato, Noko Matlou or Anna Monate are, your question will likely be met by a blank stare.

There are obviously reasons why this is the case. But Thato and Matlou are star Banyana Banyana and Basetsana (under-20) players.

They are part of the under-20 team that went to Angola and obliterated senior teams from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and the hosts Angola - on their way to defending the Cosafa Women's Championship title Banyana won two years ago.

Former Banyana midfielder Monate is in charge of this team, which is presently involved in World Cup under-20 qualifying matches. The tournament will be held in Chile in November. Sowetan caught up with Monate.

Linda Moreotsene: Has what your team achieved sunk in yet?

Anna Monate: Not only has it sunk in, but we are over it already. We cannot get excited at this stage, as the world stage is beckoning. The party will start once we beat Congo and qualify. Chile is our ultimate goal.

LM: How did you come to work with this team?

AM: I was assistant to former coach Sheryl Botes, who was the Academy's head coach. I set about learning as much as possible not only from her, but from Banyana coach Augustine Makalakalane, whom I also assisted and was also helped tremendously by Fran Hilton-Smith. I went on Fifa courses, and prepared myself. When coach Sheryl moved on, I was appointed as head coach.

LM: A lot is expected of this group of players because of what the association (Safa) has invested in their development. The pressure does not seem to bother you, thus far.

AM: I do not see it as pressure, it is a challenge. After what the association has invested, it is only right that they have expectations from us. We owe them results.

LM: In Angola, you mentioned hostile tactics?

AM: Yes, strange things would happen. Several times, we would go and train at a designated ground. But halfway through our session, and contrary to training schedules a team would arrive, claiming they were the ones to use that ground. The girls would get scared, but luckily I have been around as a player and faced such shenanigans before. And since they look up to me as a leader, I had to stand my ground.

LM: Amid all that, how did you get the players to not only concentrate, but to score so many goals? (South Africa scored 20 goals in five matches and conceded only six.)

AM: I got them to take pride in their citizenship, to look to someone wearing the same colours as them for upliftment. Tried hard to instil pride in being a South African. The hostility served to make my girls furious, and all that anger was channelled towards ripping the opponents apart on the field. My technical team were also wonderful in assisting me through this.

LM: When you took over, what state did you find the team in? How do you keep their spirit and morale up?

AM: I took over in November 2006, and immediately we brought in 15 new players. We even had a 13-year-old player, Rachel Sebati, who is now 15 and is stronger than girls older than her, because of us working steadily with her.

LM: What is your mandate from Safa?

AM: Safa has given me no mandate. No one told me to qualify for this or that - it is up to me to set goals for myself. And the immediate one is qualification for the World Cup.

LM: Your team did well against Germany and the Netherlands on a tour of those two countries last year. Did you honestly expect the girls to play well, considering the unfamiliar conditions? The team drew 1-1 with Germany and lost 2-0 to Netherlands.

AM: No, but I knew they were prepared for the cold. Our morning training sessions at the Academy starts at 6am, so to that extent they coped well.

LM: Have you achieved goals you set for yourself so far?

AM: So far, so good. But if you look at a player like Memory Makhanya, who has been with us for several years, and is now a senior member of Banyana, you can tell the benefits. They get the right education, the right food and the right training, setting them up for life.

LM: How are preparations for the next match coming?

AM: The time for preparations is long past. We now want results in two weeks' time against the Democratic Republic of Congo.