The Banyana Banyana players feel the 2016 Rio Olympics is just around the corner and have welcomed the early start in preparations. The squad of 29 players is sweating it out at the Nike Football Training Centre in Pimville, Soweto.
SAFA caught up with captain Janine van Wyk to get the feel of camp.
SAFA: How is camp going Janine?
Janine van Wyk: The camp is going very well, the morale is high and everyone is doing well at training. We are all fighting for a spot to be among the final 22 that will go to Rio, which makes each and every training session very competitive. The good thing is that it is healthy competition, but we all know it will be sad to see teammates who don’t make it to the tournament – whoever they may be – but that is something we will deal with when it happens. For now, the focus is on training and getting ready for Brazil.
SAFA: How is that competition helping the team prepare?
JvW: We know that every time we step on to the field we go there as a team and when the time comes we will be ready for the tournament. Since we are aiming to be the best we can be, we are keeping each other on our toes. Those who will make it, it is because they deserve it and have worked hard for it. We all know that whoever goes, a strong squad will represent South Africa in Brazil.
SAFA: The tournament is in August, is that not too far off?
JvW: The date seems far off, but actually it is just around the corner and each day we see it drawing nearer and nearer. That is why we are working as hard as we can to gain that fitness, to gain that confidence. Starting early is more important than you can imagine as it will help us become a unit which is crucial in a tournament situation. We want to go the Games and show people what women’s football in South Africa is all about. We want to go there and make a mark for our country so people can look back and say the South African’s Women’s Football National team is growing in leaps and bounds. We might not have a professional league or many players plying their trade abroad but we still want to compete well.
SAFA:You have been there before (at the Games), is the feeling different this time around?
JvW: Each tournament has a different vibe about it. For us the first time was about participating for the first time, then there is a whole lot of players for whom it will be the first time experience. Truth is, it is going to be different because we are going with a different team, different coach, playing different style of football and we are looking forward to it and we know we are going to compete very well. In 2012 it was almost like a matter of being there. This time around we know what is expected of us, so we are going there to make a name for ourselves, for our country and hopefully get contracts overseas – so it will be totally different from 2012.
SAFA: Already sharing ideas with those who haven’t been there?
JvW: No, not yet, but closer to the time when the nerves start coming in, we will try and talk about it especially to those who will be going there for the first time. We will give them some insight as to what really happens there, the high level of competition that is played there.
SAFA: Looking forward to the draw?
JvW: I really can’t wait because I would love to know who we will be facing in Rio. But the fact is any opponent we get will be tough that is why it is very important that we prepare thoroughly. The tournament is played at a very high level and this early camp will really go a long way in assisting us with our fitness levels and readiness. But I am really excited about what the draw holds in store for us.