- Goalkeeper Andile Dlamini overcame a Covid-induced heart illness to become part of SA’s historic sports achievements.
- After nearly six months out, Dlamini was a member of the Wafcon-winning Banyana women’s football team.
- Dlamini was named Sports Star of the Year at the annual SA Sports Awards last weekend.
- GOOD NEWS DAY IS BACK! News24 celebrates the people restoring pride in our country. Read their stories here
Banyana Banyana football star Andile Dlamini’s world almost came crashing down two years ago.
The multi-award-winning goalkeeper faced a battle for her life from complications after catching Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic in 2020 resulted in her having fluid in her heart.
The Mamelodi Sundowns stopper had heart infusion therapy and couldn’t run, jump or even walk long distances – a life and career-threatening prospect for a person who makes her living through darting and sprawling across the goal to keep out shots on her goal.
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In her own mind, she reasoned that the illness came about because she was becoming vocal and even antsy about the growth of the women’s game, which was still not getting as much support or funding as the men’s version.
Also, that she needed a pause to reflect and be grateful for how far she had travelled.
“I went through a heart infusion during Covid and had to stay home for about five to six months,” she told News24.
“I came back from that and took up like I never got sick. To see myself not being able to play football… I felt like it was a pause, like it was punishment because there was a time when I was asking: ‘Why aren’t things moving or changing for women footballers?’.
“This was before the success. Me being paused was God trying to tell me that I needed to concentrate on the bigger picture and that this was not my time to quit or give up.
“The heart infusion doesn’t allow you to jump, run or walk [far] distances. You have a tight chest. When they say you have a heart infusion, it has water; mine was the size of my nail on the small finger.
“That amount of water didn’t allow me to jog, walk a distance and I couldn’t eat a lot of food. My mom needed to blend my food.”
Andile Dlamini during the women’s friendly match between the Netherlands and South Africa. (Photo by ANP via Getty Images)
Her career which she had built for herself, from the ground up (with scant resources given to the women’s game) was in dire jeopardy.
“I was sitting, thinking, ‘Oh my God, I’m a breadwinner; what’s going to happen to my family?’,” Dlamini said. “I was getting thinner. I saw my body changing every day and my hair felt light, like it was going to come out if I just touched it.
“I was thinking, ‘God, if it’s my time, just take me. Please don’t make me suffer. If it’s not my time, may I heal and may it become a miracle’.
“How I healed was a miracle. The Sundowns doctors and Dr Rodney Mokoka from Banyana Banyana really helped me.
“I called Dr Mokoka while I had Covid-19, yelling ‘I can’t breathe’ over the phone, and I was living alone in Soweto at that time. He came all the way to see me.”
South African Andile Dlamini won the best goalkeeper award at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. (Photo by Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Dlamini arose from adversity to occupy her place among the greatest achievements the South African sports scene has witnessed between 2021 and this year.
She was part of the Banyana Banyana team that took the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) in Morocco last year, beating the hosts in the final, and where she was named goalkeeper of the tournament.
It was the first senior team’s continental victory since Bafana Bafana won the Afcon in 1996, ending years of drought for South Africa on the continent.
She also made history a year earlier when she was part of the history-making Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team that conquered the first-ever CAF Women’s Champions League. There, again, she played a crucial role.
She’s also become a multiple Hollywoodbets Super League winner.
The accolades kept coming and, last weekend, she took home R500 000 in prize money at the annual SA Sports Awards, where she was named SA Sports Star of the Year.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and Andile Dlamini during the South Africa women’s national soccer team trophy celebration. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)
“It has been so hectic, yet I’m grateful for the recognition and love I’m getting from everyone: my supporters and South Africans in general. And the media celebrating the success as well,” Dlamini said about the whirlwind of success.
“I feel like the media has been there to celebrate me as well and I’m just grateful. Honestly, something that God creates is unbelievable and I think this is what He has created.
“At the same time, I believe in the work we’ve put in as a team to win things. I don’t only mean Banyana, but Mamelodi Sundowns, too, because we won the CAF Champions League in 2021 and are three-time Hollywoodbets Super League champions.
“It has been incredible for me. The rewards are unbelievable, but the performances are believable because we’ve worked hard to get everything we have.”
Through it all, one would never have guessed that Dlamini had undergone so many trials during her successful career.
She has the brightest smile in all of football and brandishes it disarmingly at even the slightest provocation. It’s like nothing ever gets her down.
Inside the national team and club dressing-room, she is known for her distinctively sultry voice as much as for her shot-stopping ability, another tool she uses to bring some fun to the often highly-charged elite sporting atmosphere.
“I want to be that positive influence that, when I walk into a room, people smile,” Dlamini said.
“We go through so much depression and anxiety. A lot of people lose their lives because they can’t control how they feel and I don’t want that.
“I believe we are here for a reason in this world, to make a difference and to make this life we live a positive one. Just to see another human being smile makes me happy.”
Having been part of the 2018 FIFA Women’s World Cup squad, Dlamini is odds-on favourite to go to the next one in New Zealand and Australia later this year.
No matter what happens, Dlamini has aready inspired many young girls and South Africans to stay in the fight, no matter how tough times get, because she’s already been through it and triumphed, in all senses of the word.