Banyana will be African champions

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iol spt nov9 Banyana-Janine Gallo Images Its the morning after the glorious night before and Janine van Wyk is still on cloud nine.File picture. Photo by Gallo Images

It’s the morning after the glorious night before and Janine van Wyk is still on cloud nine.

“I didn’t get any sleep,” she says during a telephonic interview yesterday. “I spent most of the night thinking about the win. Even now, I still can’t believe it. It’s amazing. It’s incredible that we’ve finally beaten them and made history.”

Van Wyk scored the goal that saw the South African senior national team beat Nigeria for the first time and thus progress to the 2012 African Women’s Championship final where they will meet hosts Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.

It was a typical Van Wyk goal, a sweet strike from range. What made the goal all the more special was that it came on a special occasion.

“It was my 90th game for Banyana and the goal was my ninth. Can you believe I scored my eighth goal in my 80th match? It’s special, hey?”

Special indeed! After all, for a long time Banyana have suffered badly against the Super Falcons – losing each time they encountered the west Africans. On one of those occasions, back in the 2010 edition of the continental showpiece here at home, Van Wyk also scored a screamer of a goal in a 2-1 group defeat.

“I’d thought the one I scored in 2010 was good, but this one felt even better given its significance.”

Not that Van Wyk had expected her early strike following a half-cleared corner to be the match-clincher. Far from it, for – despite there still being a lot of game-time left – Banyana were playing well enough to add to her goal.

“I thought we’d score more. We had so many opportunities that we should have scored and I kept thinking the goal would eventually come. But we just could not capitalise on it.”

Failure to score made for a nerve-wracking finish to the match.

“Phew, the last three minutes of stoppage time,” she said, “the longest three minutes of my life. And when that final whistle came I just went on my knees and thanked the Lord.”

Naturally, her teammates rushed to congratulate her, cutting her prayer short in their excitement.

“It’s one of those moments you are never going to forget. But while everyone was congratulating me, I knew it wasn’t just my goal or my win, it was Banyana’s moment of glory, South Africa’s victory. Everyone in the team worked towards this, we all contributed to the win – the players, the technical team and even the fans back home.”

Van Wyk is delighted the match was televised: “It’s good that people back home got to see it and I hope they appreciate the effort we put in. They got to see how hard we worked and how determined we are to do well for our country.”

That dogged determination which sunk the Super Falcons and had Van Wyk receiving congratulatory messages even from Nigerians on her Facebook page will have to be on show again on Sunday if Banyana are to bring the trophy home.

Another hoodoo team in the form of hosts Equatorial Guinea lie in wait, but Van Wyk is not perturbed by statistics that read played three, lost three.

“We don’t look back. After all, most of these players weren’t there [in the squad back in 2008],” she said.

Incidentally, that year Banyana lost to Equatorial Guinea in the final at the same venue for Sunday’s match, as well as two years ago in Vosloorus in the semifinal of the championships.

“Yes, they beat us again in the opening game of this tournament. But that won’t matter on Sunday. Obviously we were still warming up for the event and coming to terms with the conditions. We’re in high spirits now and we will go into the final with the same spirit we had against Nigeria.”

Van Wyk believes this year was pre-ordained to be theirs.

“I really believe 2012 was just meant to be our year. First we made history by going to the Olympics, now we’ve finally beaten Nigeria. I believe we can come back home with the cup. We will be African champions.”

Such has been Banyana’s transformation under coach Joseph Mkhonza that it is hard not to foresee them being triumphant on Sunday. And the defender who plays for Super Falcons puts forward a compelling case.

“The players in this team always go out there and give it their all. We have an amazing team spirit. We’re all good friends, no one has a problem with anyone. We do the job together and that’s why we are achieving what we have. We have a superb technical team that is always behind us even in defeat and that always makes it easier to lift ourselves up.”

And with “Booth” pitching in with some crucial goals, Sunday could well be another episode in this Banyana’s story never to be forgotten.


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