October to November is the time of the year dreaded by every school pupil in South Africa because of the upcoming final examinations.
These tests separate those who paid attention in class from those who claimed they did. They draw a distinction between the natural-born genius and the natural-born hard worker. However those categories may be defined, the South African under-17 women’s national team fall into neither.
Women supposedly have the capacity to multi-task and the Bantwana have proved that premise correct. Since the team arrived two weeks ago in Uruguay they have been writing their exams almost every day while balancing training sessions, studying, undertaking video analysis sessions and, of course, being teenagers.
The art of balancing has been enforced into their DNA by the weight of such a global tournament as the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. They have qualified for only the second time in 10 years so it was no wonder that the 2014 winners proved too imposing a giant to slay.
South Africa lost 6-0 to a deserving Japanese side who proved superior in technical skills and dynamic attack. They were astute in punishing the Africans’ defensive mistakes and becoming the first team to reach 100 goals in the tournament.
It was not Jessica Wade’s day, as the 15-year-old centre-back’s lack of experience was illustrated in the defensive misjudgment which cost one goal and a penalty which saw leading comfortably by 4-0 at half-time.
Otherwise, however, the JVW player is the only player in the squad who is exempt from writing her final year exams: her outstanding academic results at school earned her an early admission to next year’s grade ahead of her peers.
The Grade Nine student (soon to be Grade 10) had to do double duty in the backline in the absence of Fikile Magama who was taken to hospital on Tuesday with a head concussion scare. The young blood should be awarded for her bravery and resilience for wearing her African badge with pride to the bitter end.
Some players were not so fortunate to escape the jaws of the dreadful mathematics, agriculture and tourism examination yesterday while having blocking out the next day’s match.
Twins Thubelihle and Sphumelele Shamase, Karabo Dlamini and Lonathemba Mhlongo who also started against Japan, had to show significant maturity to channel all their focus on the job at hand.
The team have a tutor to moderate they study and work and remained adamant that they have it well within themselves to multitask and finish strongly in their final match against Brazil on Tuesday. Bantwana have proved that when the world sets boundaries, they define them.