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Banyana gear up for double Swedish challenge

The Banyana Banyana national senior women’s football side arrived in Cape Town on Sunday and got straight down to serious business, holding their first training session at Ikamva, the home of Ajax Cape Town.

The number one women’s national team on the continent are in the Mother City to face Sweden in two fixtures.

First up is a behind-closed-doors practice match on Thursday. This will be followed by an international friendly encounter at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday, kicking off at 2pm. Entry for this clash is free.

The 2017 COSAFA champions had almost a full compliment of 26 players at their first training session – with only the Limpopo trio of Noko Matlou, Lebo Ramalepe and Rachel Sebati watching from the sidelines after they arrived later.

‘I have said before, this is a defining year for Banyana Banyana and women’s football in general. We need to hit the ground running if we are to realise our objectives. And you have to take note that, even though we have given players training programmes to follow, we have just returned from the festive season and we haven’t had much activity as the leagues are closed,’ said interim Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis.

’But I’ve made it clear to the players that we will not accommodate passengers because this is the year of hard work, sacrifice, dedication and commitment. We have two major competitions to qualify for – the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations as well as the 2019 FIFA World Cup.

‘I have to admit though, what I saw at training makes me happy as it shows that most have been following their training programme and we just need to build on that. I’m also glad that all the players are present on day one, as this makes our job so much easier.’

Gerald Don, who is a National Executive Committee member of the South African Football Association (SAFA), as well as the President of SAFA Western Cape, welcomed Banyana Banyana in Cape Town.

‘It’s my pleasure to welcome you to this lovely city of ours, we are overly excited to be hosting you – more so because this is the first time Banyana Banyana play in Cape Town. This is a history-making match, and a very special one because you are facing one of the top footballing nations in the women’s game,’ said Don.

‘We wish you all the best, and we know this is a very important year for Banyana Banyana as it is the year for AWCON and World Cup qualifications. We hope this game will go a long way in assisting you prepare for the challenges ahead. Once again, welcome to Cape Town and good luck on Sunday.’

Sweden were expected to land in the Mother City on Monday and were scheduled to have their first training session in the evening in Somerset West.

The Scandinavian outfit are ranked 10th in the world and fifth in Europe.

This is the third time the two nations will have met.