Captain of the South African Senior Women’s National Team (Banyana Banyana), Janine van Wyk, says it is a dream come true for most of the players to not only be in the USA but to also get to play against the Olympic and World Champions.
“Most definitely, it is indeed. We have been talking about how much it is a dream come true for all of us as this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity, something we will never forget. We know it will probably be the most difficult opponent we will ever get to play in our lives but we will make the most of it and see what we can get out of the game. We are extremely focused and looking forward to this match,” said Van Wyk from the team hotel in Chicago.
Banyana Banyana arrived safely in the city on Wednesday, 6 July and are now ready to focus on the job at hand.
“It took us long to get here in Chicago but we have finally settled in and had a good night’s rest, with most feeling a little refreshed, but we should be fine and back to our normal self in no time. Everyone is excited to be here even though it was a taxing trip, but it was worth coming here to learn as much as we can from the game we are playing on Saturday,” added Van Wyk.
The South Africans will face the home team on Saturday, 9 July at Soldiers Field with a 19h00 South African (12h00 in Chicago) kickoff. This is the first time the two nations will meet in women’s football.
“We know it will be a tough one. We just have to go and give our best and learn as best as we can,get all the experience, as much as possible. And for us it is not so much about the result. Yes we want to win, but we also have to look at the bigger picture. If we get a good result against the USA it will give us a huge confidence going to Rio. We will take it step by step.” said the Banyana Banyana skipper.
Van Wyk admits it has been a long journey for her and her teammates since they qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in October last year.
So far they have played the likes of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Holland and now they are facing the top-ranked nation in the world.
“Since we qualified for the Olympics we knew it was going to be a tough journey, we knew there were a lot of challenges that we would face and a lot of games to play so we can progress and improve as a team and as individuals, and that is exactly what we have done. Up to now we have played so many games and these are the most games we have played for me in my career – it is absolutely amazing to play all these teams, and now at this stage we are playing the best in the world. We have to be grateful for we got, we have to give huge thanks to SAFA and Sasol for making it all possible, and of course our coach for believing in us. She still believes that we can compete against the best in the world. Without all of them this would not have been possible,” said Van Wyk.
The clash against the USA marks almost the end of preparations for the Olympics, which kick off early next month.
“There are many times at night when I just stay up and think about Rio. Our preparations have gone extremely well and we could not have asked for better preparations than these. This time we are more confident than we have ever been before leading up to this competition, and it will go down to us the players how well we do on the field that will see us through. The good thing is that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and it will come down to the 90 min in each and every single match in Rio. We are looking forward to this and hopefully we will give our best and see how far we can get,” concluded the captain.