By Sizakele Nkosi
In football it’s rare to hear of a defender with 67 goals for her national team.
Former 2008 CAF Women’s Footballer of the Year Noko Matlou, has transitioned into her new role, from striker to centre back for the South African women’s national football team.
Noko won the award after showing a splendid performance at the 2008 African Women’s Championship when she finished the tournament tied on six goals with Genoveva Anonma of Equatorial Guinea.
Speaking to LadiesMarch, the defender with 116 caps in her kitty said her teammates had to quickly put not qualifying for the Women’s World Cup last year and the All Africa Games disappointment aside.
“We knew it from the start that for not qualifying for a big tournament (like the World Cup), we were very disappointed. When it’s not your time then it’s (simply) not your time.’’
“So, we told ourselves we need to work harder to qualify for the next tournament which was the All Africa Games. We did well but unfortunately, did not qualify for the semi-finals.” she said.
At the All Africa Games, South Africa and Ghana finished from the group on the same number of points and goals difference which meant the CAF rule on the coin toss decided their fate with the Black Queens of Ghana getting the nod into the semis.
Matlou concurs that the Rio Olympics presented their last chance to qualify for a major international tournament.
‘’As players, we did speak that now was our time to qualify for Rio 2016 and it wasn’t easy.” she reflected.
Jermaine Seoposenwe scored the winning goal against Equatorial Guinea in Bata to book Banyana Banyana’s ticket to the Rio 2016 Olympics in August.
Since then, coach Vera Pauw has been preparing the team. Banyana had a two week training camp before the December holiday recess and now, players returned to camp on Monday 18 January for yet another two week training camp.
“We know our strengths and our weaknesses. (During the December camp), the coach stressed on our weakness and if we continue creating mistakes, our opponents will capitalize on them.”
Matlou, born in Gamoletjie, Limpopo, admits she prefers to train with boys.
“[laughs] Yes, it’s true! Personally, I prefer to train with boys. Training with boys is very hard and I know that when I adapt to their training than training with the ladies, it’s going to be easy for me. When I am at home I work on my weakness and going to camp not to struggle.”
She aslso explained why Pauw moved her from striker to defender and her partnership at the back with skipper Janine van Wyk.
“I didn’t make that decision, the coach did. She said to me that I was mobile and that I can read the game and that’s the reason she changed my role.. I think her experience helped me begin well at the back. If she wasn’t there, I was going to struggle at the back (with Janine)” continued Matlou.
South Africa have been given a bye in the first round of qualifiers for the Africa Women Cup of Nations tournament to be staged in Cameroon from 19 November to 3 December 2016 thus, retirement talks are in full swing.
“After Rio, it’s the qualifiers for African Women Championship. So, after the AWC, I will see if my legs will carry on.”
In December, the defender hosted her own Noko Matlou Annual Tournament from 24 to 28 December, consisting of 16 boys team and 8 girls team