By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
Team South Africa’s women’s footballers kick off their African Games campaign against Cameroon here on Monday.
And they’ll be using this continental showpiece with a double goal in mind.
Said coach Vera Pauw in the Athletes’ Village on Sunday: ‘Obviously our goal is to win every game we play but this is also great preparation for our 2016 Rio Olympics qualifying double-header against Equatorial Guinea next month.’
Banyana Banyana are drawn with just two teams in their pool, Cameroon and Ghana after Egypt withdrew before the Games.
‘I think Cameroon will be our toughest match,’ was the coach’s assessment. ‘They’re defending women’s champions from the last All Africa Games and also reached the last 16 of the women’s World Championships.
‘We played them last year at the African Championships and lost 1-0, so it would be nice to set that right.’
In terms of style, Cameroon used to very much go the long-ball route but in recent times that has changed.
‘They now have more of a build-up which will suit us. Not being a very big side physically, we often call ourselves the “Tiny Frogs” and we’ll try and use our creativity and mobility and press up a lot.’
The team will be captained by defender Janine van Wyk, pictured in the Athletes’ Village above, second from right, The side brought to Brazzaville is the strongest they could bring, given the circumstances, with many players having commitments with their foreign-based clubs but goalkeeper Roxanne Barker will jet in should the side make the semi-finals.
Players missing from the line-up are Jermaine Seoposenwe, Robyn Moodaly and Kelso Peskin.
South Africa’s second game against Ghana will be played on 13 September.
The Games’ other group features four sides: Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo and Tanzania.
Monday’s game will be played in the Stade A. Massamba Debat Stadium, with seating for what looks like around 20,000 spectators.
‘It’s on an artificial surface but we have trained there this week and are used to it,’ says Pauw. ‘We’re used to training on an artificial surface at the Nike Centre back home in Johannesburg but this once seems to have a bit more rubber than usual and is rather on the slow side which doesn’t really suit us.’
Whatever the pitch though a positive result from their opening game will suit the team just fine.