Banyana Banyana and Desiree Ellis are set to embark on their journey through the 2024 CAF Olympic qualifiers, facing the Democratic Republic of Congo in their opening match.
The return leg is scheduled shortly after, making these games pivotal in determining their Olympic fate.
Despite the challenges that have arisen in the lead-up to these crucial fixtures, there is a palpable air of confidence surrounding the South African national women's football team.
Coach Desiree Ellis has had to navigate through a series of unforeseen events that have disrupted her preparations for the qualifiers.
These challenges include visa complications, exam schedules, and injuries to some of the team's key players.
Notably, the absence of Jermaine Seoposenwe in the first leg due to her commitments in Mexico is a significant setback.
Additionally, Fikile Magama's impending exam on the following Monday presents a logistical challenge.
Meanwhile, Refiloe Jane‘s unfortunate injury further compounds the situation.
Coach Desiree Ellis has adapted to these disruptions by naming a larger 25-member squad, displaying the team's flexibility and determination to overcome adversity.
A coach's determination: Desiree Ellis' resolute preparations
South African Football Association (SAFA) President Danny Jordaan has expressed his unwavering support for Banyana Banyana and their coach.
He acknowledges that many players on the national team are university students who are currently immersed in their final exams.
In addition to academic commitments, unexpected withdrawals and injuries have added complexity to the team's preparations.
However, Jordaan remains optimistic, stating, “And that's why I asked the coach whether she still had enough (to win the games). And she said yes, so I am comfortable that we'll come away with the win.
“I must believe the coach. So, I want to wish them all the best. Congo is not an easy team away from home and they must fight (for the win).”
Coach Desiree Ellis has left no stone unturned in preparing her team for the upcoming fixtures.
Desiree Ellis' commitment to overcoming adversity and steering her team to victory is evident in her strategic squad selection.
With the support of SAFA and the unwavering spirit of the players, Banyana Banyana is poised for success on the field.
As Banyana Banyana takes on the DRC, the nation watches with anticipation, hoping for another remarkable performance that will bring them closer to the 2024 Olympics.
Banyana Banyana's resilience shines through
Speaking at the Sasol League National Championships in Bloemfontein, one of the team's star players, Thembi Kgatlana, voiced the team's unwavering optimism.
Despite the regrets surrounding the absence of key players, Kgatlana and her teammates refuse to let this serve as an excuse.
They are fully aware that they have a capable 25-member squad ready to confront the formidable challenges presented by the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kgatlana emphasized the significance of these matches taking place outside of South Africa.
Playing in unfamiliar territory, they anticipate a steep learning curve, drawing on the invaluable experience of senior players within the team.
These qualifiers hold a special significance beyond just the pursuit of Olympic qualification. They also mark the farewell of one of the icons of African football, defender Janine van Wyk.
With an astonishing 183 international caps to her name, she stands poised to make history.
If she participates in both matches against the DRC, she will surpass Egypt's Ahmed Hassan as the highest-capped player in Africa, male or female.
This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago