Banyana skipper Janine van Wyk in discussion with coach Desiree Ellis. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – The road to improvement and the continuing journey to raise the profile of women’s football in South Africa reside in regularly bringing the world’s top nations to the country.

In essence, to be among the best, you have to play against the best, and make no mistake, Sweden can be counted as among the best in the world.

Banyana Banyana are therefore set to face a searching test of their credentials when they host the Swedes in an international friendly at Cape Town Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 2pm).

Entry is free but tickets still have to be accessed via Computicket or any Shoprite, Checkers, or Checkers Hyper.

Sweden have a rich pedigree in women’s football: European champions in 1984, World Cup runners-up in 2003, and World Cup bronze medallists in 2011. They have participated in six Olympic Games, seven World Cups, and nine European Championships.

Banyana are in for a tough outing against such seasoned opponents, who are captained by the highly experienced Caroline Seger. The 32-year-old midfielder is more than chuffed to have the opportunity to lead her country against the South Africans. “I am looking forward to the game,” said Seger. 

“There is big interest in it. It’s also going to be great to play in this amazing stadium; it will be a good memory and we expect a good game too. We played South Africa at the Olympics, it was a tough game, and we only managed to score and win in the last minute. For me, it’s a dream just to be in South Africa.”

Seger also spoke about the importance of the support of her country’s national federation in ensuring that women’s football continues to grow.

“Our federation is always backing us,” added Seger. “We are able to fly across the world and play in games like this. I’ve been in the national team since the age of 19, I’m now 32, and a lot has happened along the way. But the Federation is always there to support us. Women’s soccer is growing in Sweden and around the world as well. Hopefully, through games like this, South Africa can follow the same journey as us.”

Sweden are coached by Peter Gerhardsson, who will certainly have some inside knowledge on Banyana, considering that he is a close friend of current Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter. Gerhardsson was Baxter’s assistant at Swedish club Helsingborg. He went on to coach Hacken in the Swedish league, where South African central defender Tefu Mashamaite had a short stint.

Gerhardsson took over as coach of the Swedish national women’s football team in November last year, and this friendly against Banyana is part of his team’s preparation for the next European Championships.

“It’s my second time visiting South Africa,” said Gerhardsson.

“The first time was a few years ago with Stuart Baxter. He is a very good friend of mine. It’s an honour for me to coach the Swedish national team, and I’m proud to be here in South Africa. The country has a history and one of the most famous people in Nelson Mandela.

“But for us it’s not about the past, we just focus on the future. The situation is that we have to see how we play. Playing against South Africa gives us an opportunity to see what we can change and what direction we have. We are proud to be here and to play against the best team in Africa. For us, this is part of our preparation for the European Championships and it’s going to be fantastic to play in this arena.”

IOL Sport

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