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Nothando Vilakazi: European experience will help in Women's World Cup

11:29 BST 24/04/2019
Nothando Vilakazi Banyana Banyana
The South African enjoyed a winning debut with the Lithuanian champions against Rigas in a Baltic league contest

Nothando Vilakazi says she is delighted to make her European debut for Gintra-Universitetas in a 5-1 win over Rigas at the Gytariai Stadium.

The 30-year-old signed her first professional contract, joining the Lithuanian queens from South Africa's Palace Super Falcons in April.

Vilakazi gave a good account of herself for Gintra as she was in action for 75 minutes before being substituted in the match.

The South African, who is aiming to make Banyana Banyana's squad for the 2019 Women's World Cup, opened up on her struggles to adapt to life on and off the field.

“It was a very lovely debut, I really enjoyed myself. The 75 minutes I played was not difficult at all. I was just in a happy space and it made things very easy for me to perform," Vilakazi told the media.

"I am also glad my new teammates welcomed me warmly as they even allowed me to take all the corners – left and right – as well as free kicks, and for me, that was just awesome.

“The main difference is that they play attacking football for the 90 minutes without stopping, which requires full fitness and total concentration. They are fearless and always play to score and as soon as we lose the ball the closest person must press, so we can retrieve the ball and launch another attack.

“I must admit though that I did not find that kind of play very difficult because these are all the tactics I learned from Vera (Pauw), so I easily adapted to the style of play.

“The first day I got here I wasn’t coping at all. I had a blocked nose and couldn’t sleep at night. I even had to go and see a doctor, and I was told that such things happen because of the change of environment.

“But now I am very fine and I am feeling very good. Actually, I am enjoying myself and now sleep very well. I must also say that with Jermaine being here, it has helped a lot.

"I can safely say we have each other, and that counts a lot when coming to a foreign country. The only challenge is the language, it can be a bit frustrating but we have someone translating for us and that helps a lot.”

Ahead of France 2019, Vilakazi admits that her move to Europe came just in time to realise her professional career dreams and vows to make the best of it.

“To be honest, I was expecting something like this and I am glad it has happened and now I can focus on my career. I think it is a case of never giving up on your dreams and that is the message I want to pass on to some up-and-coming players or even those who still harbour hopes of playing overseas – don’t give up, dreams do come true,” she continued.

“The move came at the right time before we go to our first Women’s World Cup, and this will help grow our game a lot. Hopefully, by the time we get to the tournament, we will be much better players because of the experience we will have gained here. And also, we will be able to share a lot with our teammates in the national team as to how to approach certain situations.”

Vilakazi will hope to build on her good form when Gintra face Banga in their next Lithuania A Lyga Women's fixture on Wednesday.