Going into the unknown

2012-07-21 15:24

Having gone through an intense two-year qualifying process, Banyana are raring to go

After two years of blood, sweat and tears, Banyana Banyana were relieved to finally jet off this week before their Olympic debut at the London Games.

Having gone through an intense two-year qualifying process, a change of coaches, pay disputes and numerous training camps in preparation for the tournament, the national women’s football team was all geared up.

It will be a historic first appearance at the quadrennial sporting showpiece, according to captain Amanda Dlamini.

“It’s about time,” said Dlamini.

“We’ve been preparing for a long time. It’s time to walk the talk and do what we have been practising all along.”

For Dlamini, the reality of being an Olympian finally sank in as they boarded the plane to the England capital this week.

“Up to two weeks ago it never really crossed my mind, I suppose,” she said.

“I think it started to sink in that we were really going at the holding camp at the High Performance Centre (in Pretoria) with the rest of Team South Africa.

“Whether you lose or win, you can’t take away the feeling of being an Olympian.

“This is something I will take back and hopefully tell my children 15 years from now.”

Dlamini said Caster Semenya’s honour as a flag- bearer indicated that female athletes had taken important steps in the country.

“Having a woman in front inspires other South African women. It also puts the pressure on us because we have to lead by example.”

Banyana will play their first match two days before the ceremony when they face fourth-ranked Sweden at Coventry City Stadium on Wednesday.

They will then meet Canada at the same venue on Saturday and conclude their Group F fixtures against Japan in Cardiff, Wales on July 31.

South Africa are not expected to spring any surprises, based on their lack of experience and lowly ranking of 61st in the world. But Banyana will be gutsy and are expected to play their natural short passing game against their more technically gifted opponents.

The return of former skipper Portia Modise in midfield to boost the team’s experience has been a boost for star striker Noko Matlou upfront.

And Dlamini, who has been Matlou’s long-time partner, has fitted into a deeper role in the middle of the park.

“It’s scary competing against the best teams and not knowing what to expect,” Dlamini said.

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