Jermaine Seoposenwe (with ball) and Leandra Smeda battle for possession during a Banyana practice in Le Havre, France. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Jermaine Seoposenwe (with ball) and Leandra Smeda battle for possession during a Banyana practice in Le Havre, France. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Lebohang Ramalepe (left) and Refiloe Jane complete a training drill. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Lebohang Ramalepe (left) and Refiloe Jane complete a training drill. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
From left to right, Andile Dlamini, Kaylin Swart, Cameron Cox and Mapaseka Mpuru. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
From left to right, Andile Dlamini, Kaylin Swart, Cameron Cox and Mapaseka Mpuru. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

At last, the big moment has arrived. After months of preparation, Banyana Banyana will take to the global stage when they face Spain in their first ever Fifa Women’s World Cup clash on Saturday night.

And captain Janine van Wyk has urged the people of Mzansi to support Banyana when they run on to the Stade Océane pitch in Le Havre (6pm SA time kickoff).

“We’d just like to remind that this coming Saturday will be our first ever Fifa Women’s World Cup match. It will be an historic moment for us all, so please do join in and share the moment with us,” Van Wyk said in a video message on Twitter.

While Banyana’s build-up to the tournament hasn’t been smooth sailing – they lost 3-0 to the USA and 7-2 to Norway, coach Desiree Ellis will savour the moment.

Having made her debut in 1993 and also captained South Africa, Ellis knows what it has taken for Banyana Banyana to qualify for the World Cup.

“We have waited a very long time for this, and now is our moment to shine. We will be playing for all those players who came and went in the Banyana Banyana squad, the very same players and coaches that laid the foundation for us to be where we are today – we owe a lot to them,” Ellis told the Safa website.

“We came very close to qualifying in 2014 in Namibia, but we fell at the last hurdle, and the pain was there for all to see. There was no dry tear on that day – but today, it feels good to be in this position, where I feel we belong.

“This is very emotional, but at the same time very exciting for all of us who will take part in the tournament.

“We will go out there and put our bodies on the line just to show how much South African, and in fact African football has developed in recent years.

“We are really looking forward to our first participation at this greatest event in women’s football.”

Spain are ranked at No 12, whereas South Africa at No 48, so Ellis knows it will be a tough first ever encounter between the two sides.

“Spain is a powerhouse of world football, despite the fact that this is only their second Fifa Women’s World Cup. We know what we are up against, and we have done everything possible in our power to be ready for this all-important clash,” she said.

“At this level, every team is dangerous because more often than not you get only once chance, and that could be the difference between winning and losing. The players want this, they want to showcase their talent to the world.

“And what makes this match crucial is that it is our guide to how the tournament will be like.

“We are aware that any result other than a win will set us back, as we will have to play catch-up all the way. In any tournament, you want to be in control of your destiny, not depend on others.”

@ashfakmohamed


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