Cape Town - South Africa's Under-17 women's soccer team coach, Simphiwe Dludlu, has set her eyes on being the first South African coach to manage a professional team in the USA.
Last weekend the 30-year-old inspired her side to qualify for the Under-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup later this year ... a feat she hopes will entice more girls to take up the sport.
Bantwana secured their spot at the showpiece in Uruguay with a 6-1 aggregate win over Morocco.
"It’s still unbelievable. I still need someone to pinch me and tell me we are going to Uruguay. After the final whistle me and the players went down in tears knowing we have jumped the first hurdle," Dludlu said.
"It’s really amazing - we always believe if your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough."
The Alexandra-born former Banyana Banyana captain’s mission is to go to the World Cup well-prepared.
"We don’t want to go there to add numbers but to show the world we are a great football nation with great talent," she said.
"They must see we are capable of competing with the rest of the world. The secret behind my success with the girls is that I always instil confidence in them telling them they can be better tomorrow than yesterday."
The diminutive defender announced her retirement from international soccer almost four years ago, aspiring to pursue a career in coaching instead.
At the time she had 63 international caps.
"I had to choose to work and earn a salary over playing ... passion doesn’t pay the bills," she said.
After qualifying for the World Cup, the University of Pretoria sports science graduate has set her goal higher.
"After this feat (the World Cup qualification) I have set my ambitions very clear: I want to coach an overseas team where there are better opportunities. I want to enhance my skills so I can come back to invest in my community," she said.
"At the moment I am happy with the baby steps I am taking. It’s important not to rush but I think the United States would suit my ambitions well. I love their football development structures. I would love to be part of that and they have conquered women’s (World Cup) football many times so that shows that their development is superb.
"It has always been my dream to be part of the solution in the development of women’s football. We need to start at grassroots level not only with players but also with female coaches. To me it’s not about qualification, but the legacy I’ll leave behind."
The mother of a 14-month-old daughter said it hasn’t been easy for her juggling motherhood and being away with the national team.
"It’s been difficult because I am passionate about being a mother and I am also passionate about football but my mother has been the pillar of my strength. She looks after my daughter when I am away. But I try to bridge that gap by calling home a lot when I am away. But there are days where it gets really difficult and I miss her," she said.
When she’s home, Dludlu and her baby dance to gqom and House music, play around and take walks. Those are the things she misses most when she’s away.
Upon graduating from the University of Pretoria in 2012, the former Mamelodi Sundowns player became coach of the university women's soccer team - playing in the University Sports South Africa (USSA) leagues.
In her first two years with the team they reached the final of the USSA Football National Club Championships.
In 2013 Dludlu earned a UEFA B licence coaching certificate. Alongside other former South African female internationals, she was part of the coaching panel for the Vodacom NXT Level programme in 2016. She’s also the assistant coach at SAFA’s girls’ football academy at the high performance centre in Pretoria.