JOHANNESBURG – The Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt was a turning point in Ronwen Williams’ fight for the Bafana Bafana No 1 jersey.
The SuperSport United goalkeeper went to Egypt third in the pecking order behind the injured Itumeleng Khune, who missed the tournament, and Darren Keet, who was immense in the win over Libya in the match that booked Bafana a ticket to Egypt.
But by the time Bafana flew back home, after being eliminated in the quarter-finals by Nigeria after beating the hosts in the last 16, Williams had made the No 1 jersey his own.
This week he will be fighting to keep that jersey when Bafana take on Mali in an international friendly at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday in the Nelson Mandela Challenge.
The team assembled yesterday and visited the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Parktown.
Brandon Peterson and Thamsanqa Mkhize weren’t with the team as they were withdrawn due to injuries. Ricardo Goss and Tshepo Rikhotso replaced the pair.
“The performance at the Afcon boosted my confidence immensely,” Williams said. “Obviously, there was a lot of negative talk but I don’t look at things like that. I look at my game and what I can do better. I feel that mentally I am much stronger now.
“I read a lot of things about the top players, like (Cristiano) Ronaldo, and they say that it’s his mentality that makes him what he is today. I try and work on my mentality. We’ve all got the talent but I would say that it is my mentality that is my most prized possession. Nothing can bring me down.
“I am happy that I played at the Afcon but obviously it wasn’t nice to exit the tournament like that, with the mistake I made.
“We live and we learn. That helped me, now I am more solid.”
Williams is in pole position to start against Ghana and Sudan next month in the Afcon qualifiers.
A good showing against Mali and for SuperSport, who he helped win the MTN8 knockout title last weekend, will go a long way in helping him cement his position.
Williams has made huge strides since he was embarrassed by Brazil, who beat him five times in his Bafana debut.
That drubbing left him scarred emotionally and made South Africans doubt his capabilities.
“I read a quote from (Jose) Mourinho when they (Real Madrid) got smashed 5-0 by Barcelona,” Williams said. “He told his players to go out and walk in the malls and hear what the people are going to say.
“When I came home, that’s exactly what I did. I was out in the streets, I didn’t hide at home and not go out. I heard everything that people said.
“To be honest, that had a lot of positives. It helped me. That’s what boosted my confidence. I know that I can do it, I have proven it. It’s now for me to do my best.”
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