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Former Banyana Banyana captain scores major first at AFCON 2023

AMANDA Dlamini, 34, is no stranger to fame; in her early twenties, she represented the South Africa women's national team as captain at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. After early retirement, Dlamini got the opportunity to continue working in football. Now she's made history as a "first" at the AFCON 2023.

AT the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), there has been a distinct female voice in the commentary box.

For those who don’t know, it’s the voice of Amanda Dlamini, the former South African football national team captain and the first woman to commentate a game at the men’s AFCON.

In yet another major score for women at this tournament, Dlamini’s mastery of her craft, including deep analysis of the action and a good understating of the game, tactics and players, have shown that on all levels, women’s inclusion in the men’s game was not only long overdue but also adds great value to African, indeed international, football.

In many ways, the voice that is now a recognisable part of this year’s AFCON was the result of experiences on and off the pitch for the woman who retired from international football in 2018 aged 29.

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“I do not think I chose commentary, I think commentary chose me because of an opportunity that was afforded when I had to be forced into retirement at an early stage in my career,” Dlamini said of her newfound role in the game. Following her injury, she could easily have faded into the background of South African football history.

“Fortunately, our local broadcaster at home decided that maybe I have the potential to do commentary or to be in broadcasting simply because of the way I conducted interviews while I was captain in the national team,” she explained of her break in broadcasting.

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The former national captain was soon working in local broadcast in South Africa, commenting on Premier Soccer League matches as well as CAF-inter club games.

In 2022, she earned a major break when she was chosen as an analyst for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco, which saw her country win.

However, even all that experience would not prepare her for what would come next – the delayed AFCON 2023 in the Ivory Coast this year.

“The emotions that run through my mind at the realisation that I will be the first woman at AFCON to do commentary, I was not thinking about it at all. I was focused on doing my job but knew that it was the biggest moment in my career,” she recalled.

A negative atmosphere had begun to surround women commentators in the men’s game and Dlamini knew she had to be perfect ahead of her first game commentary, which would be Morocco’s Group F clash with Tanzania, in San Pedro’s Laurent Pokou Stadium, on January 17.

“It was my first AFCON doing a men’s tournament, I have always done women’s AFCON. Having this opportunity, I thought ‘what a platform and for me to just maximise on it’.”

Dlamini was thankful she could call on solid grounding from her former national team coach, Vera Pauw; a grounding in analysis which had helped Dlamini enjoy a seamless transition from playing into broadcasting.

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“When I was still playing with Banyana Banyana, she came with a very different style of analysing football and encouraging players that video analysis is not to criticise the players but to make them better players on the field,” she said of the Dutch coach.

Her coach’s way of doing things impressed Dlamini and made her realise later on that she could transfer the skills she had picked on the field from Pauw, into a different area of football.

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“I thought maybe this is something I would like to do, tactical analysis, and fortunately for me after retirement, I just fell into broadcasting.”

“I enjoy the back stories of teams. Their objectives, especially the coaches’ thoughts and preparation. Then it’s comparing starting line-ups, formations and getting individual stats on players as they are world-class players across the world. And then it’s pronunciations of players names and surnames,” Dlamini shared in a separate interview with CAF.

As she continues to make her presence felt, the 35-year-old’s hope is that more women will pick up the mic and that it will no longer be a rare occurrence for a woman’s voice to be heard commentating at a men’s tournament.

“The feeling is that I represent all the women very well and I am sure many more doors will open for other women who are in the commentary space. I hope my impact at AFCON 2023 will help more women realise that they must believe in their abilities and when the platform is there, do not shrink,” Dlamini said.

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By JOEL OMOTTO, BIRD STORY AGENCY

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