By: Sizakele Nkosi
Banyana Banyana will face tough opponents, who are ranked much higher them, at the Rio 2016 Olympics. With that in mind, the South African Football Association and Banyana’s sponsor Sasol have announced that the South African Women’s Senior National Team will face the Netherlands and United States in friendly matches.
Matches against the Netherlands, who are ranked 13th in the world and FIFA Women’s World Cup Championship winners, the US, will be a great opportunity for coach Vera Pauw to gauge her team’s readiness for the Games.
Banyana are set to leave for Holland on Monday to honour their two fixtures on the 4 and 7 June 2016 at the Mandemakers Stadium, KRC Waalwijk, Waalwijk. Although the Orange Lionesses are not participating at the Rio Olympics, they are preparing for the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euro Championship of which they will be host. For the Netherlands tour, Vera has included US based players- Samford University striker Jermaine Seoposenwe and Des Moines Menace University goalkeeper Kaylin Swart.
South Africa will then play the US team on Saturday, 9 July 2016 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. Kick-off is 12h00 local time (19h00 SA time).
The South African Women’s National team are in group E alongside Sweden, China and host Brazil. The last time Banyana Banyana played European oppositions was in Cyprus Cup 2015, in group C with countries such as Belgium, Czech Republic and Mexico. This will be the first time for coach Vera Pauw ‘s charges to play international friendly matches with both the Netherlands and US teams.
In an article printed in the City Press newspaper back in April, it was hinted that coach Pauw might get her wish of playing world number one, the US women’s national team and it was also mentioned that, the US have an open slot on the July 9.
In the same article, Safa chief executive Dennis Mumble said: “our programme for Banyana is ahead and we have just secured another friendly for them against a top team that is also going to the Olympics subject to the fact that we are not drawn in the same group.”
And according to coach of the side Vera Pauw, “What else can you wish for than playing the world champions in your final preparation for the Olympics? It is absolutely amazing and we are thrilled to play them. Of course it will be very difficult and we might suffer a big defeat but it doesn’t really matter as I believe it is better to go through that now than at the Olympics. And it is the only way to be ready for the difficult battles we will encounter in Rio. These players have never experienced such opposition so it is amazing. I would like to say thanks to the USA for agreeing to play us,
SAFA President, Dr Danny Jordaan said: “To be the best you must play the best; they come bigger than the USA. What else can we ask for ? We want to give our team the best preparation we can and will do everything in our power to ensure that they are fully prepared for the Rio Olympics. I would like to convey our greatest gratitude to our sponsor Sasol for making this friendly possible. We are proud to have such partners.”
Elton Fortuin, Sasol vice president (communication and brand management) responded: “As Sasol we are proud to be the company that is at the forefront of empowering women’s football and recently launched a campaign- celebrating Heroes- to rally the nation behind the team in lead up to Olympics. The Olympics is the greatest showcase of sporting events and we as their sponsor, stand behind the team all the way.”