Soccer Betting News - SA's Leading Soccer Betting Newspaper: Jerry Tshabalala: “I promise you – we are going to conquer Africa”

Jerry Tshabalala: “I promise you – we are going to conquer Africa”

Jerry Tshabalala

The man, the myth, the legend – Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies head coach, Jerry Tshabalala, speaks to our soccer analyst, Bryan Naicker, about plans of conquering Africa for the second successive season and updates us on Masandawana’s preparations ahead of the Hollywoodbets Super League launching in the upcoming weeks.

Firstly, I’m a massive fan of your work. Thank you so much for this opportunity coach. How is everyone feeling at the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies camp as the new season approaches?

“Yeah, we are okay, we are looking forward to the new season, we can’t wait to get started.”

How important is coach Agnes Nkosi to Masandawana?

“Look she’s very, very important. When you look at her history and my history, where we come from, some people they don’t know I’m the first person to scout her as a player around 2010, and then when I first moved from Mpumalanga to Sundowns, I asked for her to come with me but she only came the following year back in 2013.

So, there’s been a lot going on between myself and coach Agnes, we’ve got a good working relationship, so, she will always be important, and she played an important role for us off the field.

When I looked at her age and the position where she was playing on the field as a defender, I felt like, she always contributed so much to the first-team and she should now join the technical team.

It’s only fair you know, she has that close relationship with everyone from playing together with our players and one day she’s going to be a fantastic head coach.

It’s something that everyone on our technical team have, is being very close with the players. Also, when you’re passionate about the game, it allows players to open-up to you and feel comfortable and that’s when the best football is played.”

Agnes Nkosi and Jerry Tshabalala

Bambanani Mbane recently scooped the Player of the Season award. And in my humble opinion is a future Banyana Banyana captain, she makes the beautiful game look very simple. What is her influence on her teammates during preparation for matches?

“You know I’ve always said ‘Bamba’ is a natural leader. She was born a leader. I remember when we played in the CAF Champions League, and she felt something wasn’t going right, so she came to my room and said coach can’t we just have a meeting to address the mistakes we were making. There were some mistakes that I couldn’t pick, but she managed to pick them up. So, in ‘Bamba’ we’ve got a true leader.”

You have a star-studded squad of top-quality players but if I had to choose one, my personal favourite is Morifi Chuene, as a junior football coach, how do I get a player understanding when to precisely time runs and deliver dangerous crosses just like Morifi Chuene?

“You know it takes time, there’s nothing that can happen overnight. Allow the players to believe in themselves. It will be better for them to grasp what you’re trying to implement. Basically, it’s goes with the coach being patient and making the players believe in what you’re saying to them, you know. As a coach you can then win them over on that aspect by making them believe in your philosophy.”

Miche Minnies was signed after the Sasol Championships play-offs, have you made any more additions to the squad?

“We’ve made three signings this year, we’ve brought in Salome Kekana from TUT Ladies – a left-footed player – we brought in Tiisetso Makhubela also from TUT - a centre-back - who’s also a part of the Banyana Banyana squad as we speak. And striker Miche Minnies from Vasco da Gama. We needed to freshen the squad a little bit and as a coach who’s planning ahead for the future of the team, I want minimum 60 percent of the players to be under the age of 23 and we also need time to learn the way we want to play at Sundowns and it’s something that I’m trying to build.”

Last season as a 15-year-old, Lumka Qhekeka, scored on debut vs Tsunami Queens and has now earned herself a national team call-up to coach Simphiwe Dludlu’s Under-17 team (Bantwana) alongside Siphesihle Magaze.

“Yeah look you have to give them an opportunity and we needed to play those catch-up games, they were coming thick and fast, we needed to refresh the squad. In the match against Tsunami Queens, we featured three 15-year-olds, Siphesihle Magaze and Thembelihle Masibi were also on the scoresheet. So, it shows that we are building the team and looking for the future.

We’re not only concentrating on seasonal players, they know what they need to do when they come on. During the season, they need to be ready whenever called upon.”

Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies

Are there any other young gems you have up your sleeve this year?

“Nah this year no, not yet, I’m still trying to see if I could have one or two. But we started our Under-13 and Under-15 teams.”

What is Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies doing in terms of school’s tournaments and searching for the next Andisiwe Mgcoyi?

“Women’s football is growing in leaps and bounds and as Mamelodi Sundowns we also realized that it’s about time we concentrate on our women’s side. Its something that we are building towards and we are going to try our best to see where we can get our younger teams to travel on the continent to play junior tournaments.”

As an ex-goalkeeper, I’ve always wanted to ask you this question. What was the thinking behind swapping Asa Rabolao for Andile “Sticks” Dlamini, during the knockout stages of the CAF Champions League, after Asa performed brilliantly during the group stages?

“I’m glad you’ve asked this question and I’m glad it will go out to the public. As a coach you understand the strengths of everyone in the team. If you recall Andile was sick during the group stages and Asa started.

In our final group game, we played against a team who like to press with three strikers – ASFAR Club from Morocco – when they press us, we are playing with three at the back. So, we needed a goalkeeper who’s more comfortable with her feet, so that’s where Andile came in and she allowed us to overload the back – making it four v three – which in turn worked wonders for us.

I felt that’s how the change came, you know Asa is an excellent shot-stopper but with her feet, she’s not at the level of Andile yet, but we are working together so we are all comfortable with our feet because the modern goalkeeper is required to utilize their feet more and with the brand of football we play at Sundowns, it is key.”

Asa Rabolao & Andile “Sticks” Dlamini

Considering you have so many talented players in the squad and only XI can start on the day, how do you keep the team spirit up and ensure every player understands their importance to the team?

“I’m trying very hard, it’s not that easy when you’ve got 27 talented players. We need to assure each one of the 27 players that they will play. Only thing motivates my players is when you do good at training, I’m automatically going to notice and give you playing time. 

So basically, it’s for them to work hard to get into the starting XI. When you look at my team, you’ll notice most of the games, I make a lot of changes.

Let’s say next week we are playing against Durban Ladies, I know how they play and we as a team understand who’s the best to play from previous performances and also from how Durban Ladies will play. We understand our players so we just figure out how our opponents will approach the game in terms of their style.

I’m doing my level best to keep my players motivated. If you play well at training, you are going to start.”

You’ve conquered Africa by winning the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League putting the cherry on top of a perfect season. How confident are you of defending each title?

“Look we have to be confident; I am one person who doesn’t believe when I go into a boxing ring that I’m saying I’m going in just to test waters.

When I go into the boxing ring, I’m going in to win that match. This is very important it’s all in the head, if the mind is not ready, the body is not going to follow.

I promise you – we are going to conquer Africa”

Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies

When it comes to the Hollywoodbets Super League, what are the greatest challenges facing the smaller clubs when you speak to the managers of their respective teams?

“Mostly I would say, coaches find it difficult to have their entire squad at training at one time. Most of the players are not getting paid salaries by clubs so they are working or either studying.

Most of the clubs are not fortunate to have all their players at training at one time. If you look at JVW Ladies, you will have everyone at training, but you have players that are working. So, they try their level best to play at night to accommodate all the players.

If you look UJ Ladies, they have students who will sometimes tell you that they are heading into exams and can’t come to training. I think it’s time we work on these issues to make our league more professional.”

Do you have any ambitions of coaching a national team if the right opportunity arose or do you have a long-term plan to make the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team an unstoppable juggernaut like the men’s team?

“I always say, stay where you are loved. I only have ambitions of taking Mamelodi Sundowns to the next level and no ambitions of taking on a national team. Not at all.”

Thank you so much for your time. Now that stadiums are opened, we’ll be attending your matches. See you guys at Chatsworth Stadium for the Durban Ladies match and best of luck flying the South African flag proudly on the continent.

Interview by Bryan Naicker for Soccer Betting News