CAPE TOWN – Banyana Banyana's World Cup qualification marks the beginning of a new era for women’s football in South Africa.
Janine van Wyk, captain of South Africa's national women's team, said that since the team qualified for the World Cup in France in June, it was obvious that fans have high hopes for the team.
In an interview on Sunday, Van Wyk said prior to the team's departure to Ghana for the Africa Women Cup of Nations, she received questions about whether or not she believed Banyana Banyana would qualify for the World Cup.
"My confident answer was yes," said Van Wyk. I truly believed that the amount of talent in our squad was more than enough to take us all the way to the World Cup. The quality of hard work, dedication, and teamwork that I have seen in this team is incredible.
"Qualifying for the World Cup is a dream come true, not only for myself but for all the players, managers, the technical team, upcoming players, and South Africa as a whole.
"We have done well as a team, with numerous achievements that I am very proud of, but qualifying for the World Cup is the crowning achievement of our careers. Rather than viewing this as the culmination of a decade of planning, we must see it as the beginning of a new era for women’s football.
"It is amazing to see the hope that we have awakened in our South African fans and young women looking up to us. It is proof that women footballers in South Africa have the potential to become the best and are more than capable of competing on the world stage."
Van Wyk said the opportunities were limitless and it was up to the senor and upcoming players to grow and keep improving women’s football in South Africa and added that each team member had the ability to work harder and become even better.
"I’m confident that this qualification will open more doors and build support for the team. I hope that it pushes sponsors to come on board and support women’s football in our country. This achievement has proven that women are capable and that we truly are limitless.
"World Cup qualification is evidence that dreams can come true for aspiring young women in football. I hope that this inspires them to take their talent seriously and work hard because doing so can only take women’s football to greater heights."
Van Wyk said there is an African proverb that says, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – and this means that for a child to reach their full potential it takes a community of various individuals who each play a different role.
"For myself and Banyana Banyana, this village includes our parents and guardians who made sacrifices for us to get to matches and trials, coaches who put in the hard work for no pay when we were starting out, and also Sasol, the biggest supporter and sponsor for the past 10 years.
"It is not often that you get a sponsor that is so involved with the team. Sasol has been there for us from the beginning, helping us achieve our goals all the way to our first ever Women’s World Cup.
"Thembi Kgatlana winning Goal of the Year, Player of the Year and coach Desiree Ellis winning Coach of the Year at the 2018 CAF Awards is what this is all about.
"It’s about celebrating powerful women who reach for their dreams no matter the circumstances or challenges they face. I’m so proud of Thembi and coach Desiree, and I am inspired to give it my all every time I go onto the field."
Van Wyk said Banyana's journey to the World Cup continues and added that the Winnie Mandela International Challenge and the Albertina Sisulu Centenary Challenge were definitely a good start for the team as they were able to compete against Netherlands and Sweden, who are ranked 7th and 9th in the world respectively.
"It is great to have such opportunities provided by Safa and Sasol giving us a chance to compete against some of the best teams in the world. These types of games are definitely helping us in improving our competitiveness.
"To those who continue to support and help grow women’s football, coaches, parents, teachers we see you, we salute you. Continue being a village that helps support our girls grow and reach their potential.
"I look forward to seeing an even brighter future for women’s football."
African News Agency (ANA)