Banyana Banyana coach Vera Pauw wants her team to use the Rio Olympic Games as a stepping stone towards winning the CAF African Women’s Championships.
“We have to be realistic about our prospects in the Olympics because, there, we are going to meet top countries in the world. We are not there yet, but I am not saying we can’t become the world champions one day – we have to be realistic about our expectations,” said Pauw.
Pauw, who has guided the senior national team to yet another championships scheduled for Cameroon in November, says Banyana have what it takes to win that tournament.
Banyana, who qualified for their 10th tournament in succession, have always come short of winning it – they lost in the final on four occasions – to Nigeria in 1995 and 2000 and Equatorial Guinea in 2008 and 2012.
They came fourth in the Namibia tournament in 2014 and failed to qualify for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada.
But after brushing Botswana aside with a 5-0 aggregate score, Pauw is optimistic about their chances this time around.
“We are going to Cameroon for a win. It is time for gold and I think we are capable of bringing it home.”
She said they had learnt from their dismal performance at the last tournament in Namibia and hoped not to repeat the same mistakes.
“I still believe we did well in Namibia despite the circumstances, which were against us. We had issues, but I am not going to repeat them.”
She said she had devised a preparation plan that would last up until after the Olympics.
She was also hoping to use her trip to Brazil for the draw to secure some friendly games with countries that would be taking part at the Games.
Pauw was full of praise for her team for a job well done, saying she had no doubt they would qualify for the Cameroon tournament.
After playing back-to-back matches within three days, Pauw said she could see improvement in the team.
“We have shown we can recover very fast. It is unbelievable to see where we stand in terms of our fitness and preparation. It was good to have only a little rest between the two games because this is what will happen at the Olympics.”
Not one to take the credit alone, she said the players and her technical team members had done a good job to get the team to where they were today.
“We have done it together. There was no day when we took a step backwards. It’s a huge compliment to everyone involved.
“Together we are strong, and together we can do it,” said Pauw.