Neliswa Luthuli, captain of the Sunflower Sasol League team, has been selected as one of the new players representing South Africa at the 2020 COSAFA Women’s Championship. The tournament which is taking place in Nelson Mandela Bay will see Banyana Banyana fight to defend their championship title from 3 to 14 November 2020.
“This is my first tournament as a Banyana Banyana player and I’m so excited to receive the opportunity to compete and play against other African countries. I hope to improve my skills as a player, have a better understanding of football at a technical level and help the team win the tournament,” said Neliswa Luthuli.
Born and raised in Appelsbosch, Pietermaritzburg, the 24-year-old midfielder received her first call up to Banyana Banyana in 2018. “When I received my first call up, I felt so happy and proud. I was so excited to be playing in the highest level of women’s football in South Africa. As expected, the intensity in the team is very high. There are a lot of talented players in the team so competition is tight.”
Neliswa Luthuli started playing football at the age of 11 with boys in and around her community, as there were no girls to play with. She first started playing with girls at the age of 14 when she joined the Sasol League.
“The year 2020 marks 10 years of me playing in the Sasol League. I’m grateful to be playing in the league because it has given me the opportunity to improve my skills and measure myself against other players nationwide. I think Sasol has played a huge role in the development of women’s football because we are now being recognised and appreciated in South Africa. The Sasol League has also opened the doors for us to be scouted and has become that entry point into national teams such as the U17, U20 and Banyana Banyana,” Luthuli added.
Since the national lockdown began in March, players have not been able to officially train or play football but Nelisiwe maintains that she has been doing her best to stay fit and motivated. “It feels good to be back on the field doing what I love the most. It has been difficult but I made sure that I train even when I was alone at home. I have been following training programs provided by our coaches as my aim was to get back onto the field healthy and fit.”
With COSAFA Women’s Championship being her first tournament as a Banyana Banyana player, Luthuli’s next goal is to play oversees and experience football at a greater level. As a new player, Luthuli is also joined by Kaylyn Jordaan of the Spurs W.FC Sasol League team as well as Karabo Makhurubetshi, Xiluva Tshabalala, Oratile Dikgosi Mokwena, Nonhlanhla Mthandi, Lonathemba Mhlongo and Pride Itebogeng Nthite. When asked what makes her limitless, Luthuli answered, “Being limitless to me means being able to go as far as I want to, no matter the challenges. If I were to advise upcoming players, I would tell them to have discipline and patience. No matter what happens on your journey, always stay positive and remember that everything happens at its own time.”