When Bafana Bafana head coach Ephraim Mashaba announced his 30-man squad for the two international friendly matches against Swaziland and Nigeria, he named six new players – among them was Daniel Cardoso of Free State Stars.
Not only was he called up for the first time into the national team set-up but he also made it into the starting line-up and played the entire 90 minutes against Swaziland in a 3-1 win at the Somhlolo Stadium on Wednesday, 25 March.
Bafana Bafana have now moved to Mbombela in Nelspruit to prepare for the clash with the Super Eagles of Nigeria on Sunday, 29 March at the Mbombela Stadium. Kick-off is at 153h0.
SAFA Media spoke to Cardoso about his call-up, his debut, and his hopes.
Matlhomola Morake: Who is Daniel Cardoso?
Daniel Cardoso: I am a player from Free State Stars. I am a versatile player – I play at right-back, left-back, centre-back, I have played in the midfield, I have played upfront, in fact anywhere on the field except for goalkeeper.
MM: And your surname…..
DC: It’s a Portuguese surname, my dad is from Portugal, his parents grew up in Portugal, and he moved to South Africa when he was younger and my mom is from South Africa.
MM: Have you been to Portugal?
DC: I have yes. I actually went for trials with some club there when I was younger but nothing came out of it and I returned to South Africa.
MM: Would you like to play in Portugal some day?
DC: Of course yes, I would really like to play anywhere in Europe as long as it is a good league I don’t mind.
MM: Coming back to Bafana Bafana matters, what was your first reaction when you heard your name called up in the squad announcement?
DC: I was sitting at home in Bethlehem in the Free State, and I got a tweet from one of my friends to say I have been called up to the national team and I didn’t believe him and ten minutes later I got a call from the media. They said I should check on a sports channel on television and I saw my name there, then I had goose bumps all over my body for about ten minutes. I was very thrilled about it. I have been working hard, I didn’t expect the call up because I was injured at the beginning of the season but I must say hard work pays off.
MM: Who was the first person you called or spoke to about your inclusion in the national team?
DC: My agent Bradley Carnell, I have a very tight relationship with him, and then I called my dad who was in shock and didn’t believe it until I convinced him it was true.
MM: Did you at any stage of your career think you would be playing for Bafana Bafana someday?
DC: I did, but never thought it would be so soon. I really thought you have to play for one of the bigger teams to be recognised but here now it has happened earlier than I anticipated, so hard work really pays off.
MM: How were your first few days in camp?
DC: It was awesome. I am working with a great bunch of players – the cream of the crop in South Africa I want to believe. The coaching staff, the backroom staff, they were all welcoming so it has been a good venture so far.
MM: Day of the match against Swaziland you see your name in the starting line-up, what goes through your mind?
DC: Again emotions running high, it was a good feeling for me again. I really didn’t expect to get a starting berth on my debut, but I believe it’s a great achievement for me and my football career and I just hope it goes higher and higher from there.
MM: Were you nervous?
DC: Of course, I was a bit nervous and you could see it on the field, first half I was a bit shy to play but in the second half I came out of my shell and was more confident.
MM: And how was it walking on to the field, wearing the national team jersey, singing the national anthem?
DC: It felt like a dream when I walked out there, seeing a couple of thousand fans, wearing the national team jersey, it’s an amazing experience and for every footballer, young footballer, I am sure they can’t wait to do the same to achieve that goal. It has always been a goal of mine of play for the national team.
MM: It must have felt even greater to win the match on debut?
DC: It was very great, the squad battled a bit in the recent AFCON tournament, going up one nil then pressure coming – I felt it here too. We go 2-0 up and Swaziland scores one goal and piles on the pressure. But it was a good win for us and we can only go higher from here.
MM: What do you think of your overall performance?
DC: I think I did well overall. Like I said, in the beginning there were a lot of nerves but when I came out of those nerves I started playing my natural football and it felt much better.
MM: Did you speak to anyone prior to the match to calm down the nerves?
DC: I spoke to a few players who said I must play my normal game and even before I walked out on to the field the coach said I must play my own game and not worry about other things and it helped to calm me down a bit.
MM: We are now in Mbombela, preparing for an even tougher clash against Nigeria. What are your thoughts on that one?
DC: Nigeria is a big footballing nation, for me my emotions are running wild; the nerves are sinking in a bit. But I think after a couple of training sessions I am starting to settle in, it was a bit nerve-wrecking against Swaziland especially having played 90 minutes so the body is a bit tired but I am looking forward to it.
MM: Do you fancy your name in the starting line-up against Nigeria?
DC: It would be another dream come true. I am going towards that. In fact I would love that because as they say nothing is impossible if you believe. And if it happens I will grab it with both hands and I think I won’t be as nervous as I was against Swaziland because it will be my second cap.
MM: What do you think our chances are against Nigeria?
DC: Like I said, Nigeria is a big footballing nation, but with the team that we have now – the likes of Ayanda Patosi, Lebogang Phiri, Thulani Serero, Andile Jali who all play well overseas, and back home we have fighters like Oupa Manyisa, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Thulani Hlatshwayo – all are hungry for a win against Nigeria which will lift us up, so I am confident we will do well.
MM: The players you just mentioned, how is it like for you mixing with them?
DC: It’s a great feeling, when the overseas contingent comes back here it’s a big family, we all stick together and that’s what I think brings a lot of confidence in the team.
MM: Anything you have learnt from those guys or the set-up?
DC: First of all it’s the professionalism in the team, that’s the first thing you notice about the players here. I also have a lot of respect for the guys. I look up to them, the likes of Itumeleng Khune, Mandla Masango, Bongani Zungu, Kamohelo Mokotjo, Tokelo Rantie – all the players here.
MM: And what lies ahead for Daniel Cardoso beyond the Nigeria match?
DC: I am still concentrating on Free State Stars, we are in the bottom half of the table and it’s not a comfortable feeling. We escaped relegation last season so this time the focus is to help get the team to safety and I will take it from there.