SA’s women’s football, nicknamed Banyana Banyana, will join the Mighty Warriors at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, meaning making it the first time that there will be two Southern Africa soccer teams representing the continent at the Olympics.
Banyana Banyana booked their place after beating Equatorial Guinea 1-0 in Bata on Sunday while Zim’s Mighty Warriors beat Cameroon at Rufaro Stadium making local football history.
There will be 11 other women’s teams joining Brazil at the Games Some of the other countries that have already qualified are France, Germany and Colombia.
Meanwhile ANA reports Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk believes qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil has erased the pain of missing out on the last Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The South Africans booked their ticket to Rio following a 1-0 victory over a stubborn Equatorial Guinea at Estadio de Bata on Sunday.
In an interview with SAFA Media, Van Wyk said it was an “indescribable feeling” she was experiencing at the moment.
“Firstly, I must give credit to all my teammates who went out there and gave their all and that is why we came out victorious. We knew what a tough task it was going to be and we knew what was required of us, but we managed to stay together, keep motivated together. This was a really good win, everything went according to plan and everyone was just confident.
“The feeling of belief among the players before the game was something I have never seen before and before we went out to play I said to them this is our time, we need to go to the Olympics.
“We lost out on the World Cup last year and at the All Africa Games, but there was something bigger waiting for us and that was the Olympic Games. So I am over the moon, it’s an incredible feeling and now I know we can go home and celebrate but more hard work lies ahead of us for the Olympics. We are looking forward to it.”
Van Wyk said it was also a plus that some of Banyana had been to the Olympics before and that it would be interesting for them to see how far they have progressed as a team.
“There are a couple of players who have been the Olympics already, and there are also those who will be going for the first time. Having played at the 2012 London Olympic Games, as a team it will show how much we have progressed since then.
“Next year it will be interesting to see and compare the level that we are at competing against some of the best in the world. I believe South Africa has talent and can compete with international teams. It will also be a way for us to challenge ourselves to check what strides forward we have made. We can’t wait to start preparations for Rio.”
Van Wyk said the team ha put in the time, hard work, effort and sacrifices to qualify for the Olympic Games, and she could safely they all really deserve this reward. “From day one when the coach started with us she said we want to get to the Olympic Games because we missed out on something big – the World Cup – so we also wanted to do it for her.
“We didn’t want to see her leave had we not qualified and it would have been like Banyana Banyana have done and achieved nothing, even though we know as players how much she has done for women’s football in South Africa and how much she has changed this team for the better. We now play good football, and she brings out the best in every player so we have to give credit as well.
“We are going to the Olympics with her by our side and with her experience I will not surprised if we do really well because our aim is to get out of the group stages as we did not in 2012. There are a lot things lying ahead of us, and what we still want to achieve but for now we are happy with what we have done and we need to celebrate it.”
Another thing that pleases Van Wyk is that they have invariably come out second best in the history of playing against Equatorial Guinea
“In 2008 we played in the final of the African Women’s Championship (AWC) and we lost to them 3-1. We travelled to them in 2012 after beating Nigeria for the very first time and, understandably so, our emotions were on a high after that achievement, we played Equatorial Guinea two days after and they beat us 4-0, and everyone was asking if we would ever overcome them as they seemed to have the better of us.
“So here we are, we proved everyone wrong. We were strong as a team and we believed in ourselves and we knew we were capable of beating them. We saw in the first leg that we could actually defeat them because we were on top and dominated play.
“That is exactly what we did in the second leg – bar some nerves we created some chances and could have scored early on. We went really strong at them, and we fought hard. We did it and I am extremely proud of the team.
Van Wyk said the team would like to thank everyone who stayed positive and believed in them. “Many have been sending us good luck messages and we appreciate all of that. This team would not have achieved this great feat without the support of the country.
“We have proved that we are capable of winning things, we have also proved that we are one of the best sporting codes in South Africa, and all this done with a huge support from everyone. We are keeping women’s football up there and hopefully there will be professional leagues that come with this feat in the next few years. I want to believe women’s football deserves more than they have at the moment.”
For Van Wyk personally, it’s been great period – winning the Gauteng Sports Personality of the year and now the qualification for Rio Olympics.
“This has been a memorable two weeks for me, I am really feeling on top of the world at the moment. I got that award, which I could not have won had it not been for the support of my teammates, and then this was the big one.
“This was the one I wanted most, take nothing away from the awards but all I really cared for was to qualify for the Olympics, which we have done so I am incredibly over the moon and proud of myself and the team.”