It’s not all doom and gloom for Banyana after they crashed out of the Olympic qualifiers on Tuesday. Fortunately, there is a grade 11 student in their ranks who has risen from Gugulethu in Cape Town and looks as if she is well on her way to becoming a permanent fixture in the national side.
Left back Noxolo Cesane was called up to the South African side for the Cosafa Championships last month and hasn’t looked back since she stepped on to the field at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
After already being called up to the under-17 and under-19 divisions, Cesane thought her next challenge would be playing for the under-20 side, but her impressive showings with the University of the Western Cape and the Cape Town Roses, whom she inspired to the Sasol National League Championship title by toppling Bloemfontein Celtic — the holders of the previous two championships — meant that she was called straight to the senior squad.
In conversation with the Mail & Guardian, Cesane said that her prayers were answered when she was called up to the national side.
She has not faulted since her debut, which she attributes to being consistent, constantly improving and learning from those around her and not being overwhelmed by the occasion.
“It’s a big step out of the national championships. I believe that I need to have strong confidence, because playing with the stars, you become nervous and stressed and it leads to a lack of faith in yourself, but that never changed me,” she said.
Along with her skilful attributes, this attitude seems to have impressed coach Desiree Ellis: “Some players are good, but can’t maintain the level. Some players grab opportunities and some don’t. Noxolo has grabbed hers,” said the Banyana coach recently.
Cesane scored in the second game of the Cosafa Championships against Malawi, and has been receiving more minutes ever since. She played the last 15 minutes in the away leg of the Olympic qualifier against Botswana, and enjoyed the entire second half when the sides met at the Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.
Despite being a natural left back, she threatened the Botswana defence on three separate occasions going forward, creating chances and having shots on goal. The team would ultimately come up short, eliminated on penalties.
For the effervescent Cesane, whose inspiration is Brazilian footballing wizard Ronaldinho, this means that she will now return to school to complete the academic year, something she regards with utmost importance.
“I bring my textbooks to the camp and take extra classes from my laptop. Some of the people in the medical team, and some in the physio team are helping me as well, and that is how I’m passing, because we do get time for our work here,” she said.
Cesane is reluctant to predict what the future will hold. For now, the young talent just wants to keep doing what she’s been doing — praying and acting on those prayers.