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Rio-bound Banyana Banyana face up to their toughest challenge yet
- Updated: July 6, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
Skipper Janine van Wyk and her Banyana Banyana women’s football squad jetted off to the United States in excited mood on Tuesday night.
The Rio Olympics bound team are set to face their sternest test yet when they play defending world and Olympic champions, the United States at Soldiers Field, Chicago on Saturday evening.
This is the first time these two women’s sides have met.
‘We’re really looking forward to this trip,’ Van Wyk told Road to Rio 2016 after the side had put the finishing touch to their local preparations at the Waterstone College, south of Johannesburg. ‘We’ve all been preparing very well, especially for this game against the United States.
‘We’re super eager to go and test ourselves and see what level we are at compared to them.
‘The thing is to go and learn and experience as much as we can and come back being much stronger and fitter. Everyone is just so excited about this trip and the chance to compete against the world’s best.’
Meanwhile Fran Hilton-Smith, technical director of women’s football at the South African Football Association (SAFA) said this is a dream come true for many players.
‘I’d like to wish the team the best of luck with the difficult task ahead of them. We all know just how good and strong the USA is in women’s football, hence their No1 world ranking, and we could not have asked for better preparations for the Olympics,’ said Hilton-Smith.
‘Having said that, I believe our girls will give a good account of themselves. This is a historical moment for everyone involved to play the world champions. It has been a dream of many players to face the USA and, thanks to SAFA and our proud sponsors Sasol, the dream will come true. I am just hoping the players seize the moment and carry the flag high. If at the end they feel they gave 200 percent, that’s all we can ask for.’
After Tuesday’s training, the entire team received gifts from Sasol as gratitude for qualification for the Olympics.
Said Brenda Mopeli – Sasol Brand Specialist and Marketing: ‘This is our way at Sasol of saying thank you to Banyana Banyana once again for qualifying for the Olympics. I know we have said it many times before but it just shows how grateful we are for the achievement.
‘These gifts are just a token of our appreciation from Sasol and we would also like to take this opportunity to wish the team the best of luck against the USA. We are very proud of this team, and the dedication they have shown throughout their preparations. We are behind you all the way,’
Banyana Banyana will return to South Africa on 11 July.