Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk believes qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil has erased the pain of missing out on the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk believes qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil has erased the pain of missing out on the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.

The South Africans booked their ticket to Rio following a 1-0 victory over a stubborn Equatorial Guinea at Estadio de Bata on Sunday, 18 October 2015.

Not many had given the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana any chance of returning victorious, but a 62nd minute goal by USA-based Jermaine Seoposenwe was enough to do the damage on the confident home side.

There were scenes of jubilation at the sound of the final whistle as a small crowd of South Africans danced on the field. The coach did not escape as she was hoisted high up in the air. So confident were Banyana Banyana that they brought along t-shirts emblazoned “NEXT STOP RIO 2016” while the home fans could only watch ponder on what might have been.

South Africa maintained an unbeaten record since the start of the qualifiers against Botswana, Gabon, Kenya and now Equatorial Guinea who had always had the better of Banyana Banyana.

SAFA Media sat down with an excited Van Wyk to get her thoughts after the celebration had subsided.

Matlhomola Morake: What is there to say, how are you feeling at this moment?

Janine van Wyk: Oh my word, I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know how I feel, it’s an indescribable feeling that I am experiencing at the moment. I am so happy, you have no idea. This team has done so well, we have worked so hard and we really deserve this. Firstly, I must give credit to all my teammates who went out there and gave their all and that is why we came out victorious. We knew what a tough task it was going to be and we knew what was required of us, but we managed to stay together, keep motivated together.

This was a really good win, everything went according to plan and everyone was just confident. The feeling of belief among the players before the game was something I have never seen before and before we went out to play I said to them this is our time, we need to go to the Olympics. We lost out on the World Cup last year and at the All Africa Games, but there was something bigger waiting for us and that was the Olympic Games. So I am over the moon, it’s an incredible feeling and now I know we can go home and celebrate but more hard work lies ahead of us for the Olympics. We are looking forward to it.

MM: Second Olympic Games qualification in a row, this must be a good feeling.

JvW: Yes, there are a couple of players who have been the Olympics already, and there are also those who will be going for the first time. Having played at the 2012 London Olympic Games, as a team it will show how much we have progressed since then. Next year it will be interesting to see and compare the level that we are at competing against some of the best in the world. I believe South Africa has talent and can compete with international teams. It will also be a way for us to challenge ourselves to check what strides forward we have made. We can’t wait to start preparations for Rio.

MM: It has been an incredible journey, never lost a match in a the qualifiers

JvW: Yes, we have come a long way indeed. This team has put in the time, hard work, effort and sacrifices to qualify for the Olympic Games, and I can safely say it’s all over now and we really deserve this reward. From day one when the coach started with us she said we want to get to the Olympic Games because we missed out on something big – the World Cup – so we also wanted to do it for her.

We didn’t want to see her leave had we not qualified and it would have been like Banyana Banyana have done and achieved nothing, even though we know as players how much she has done for women’s football in South Africa and how much she has changed this team for the better. We now play good football, and she brings out the best in every player so we have to give credit as well. We are going to the Olympics with her by our side and with her experience I will not surprised if we do really well because our aim is to get out of the group stages as we did not in 2012. There are a lot things lying ahead of us, and what we still want to achieve but for now we are happy with what we have done and we need to celebrate it.

MM: What also makes this victory so sweet as well is that our history with Equatorial Guinea is not the best as we have always come second best

JvW: I am extremely happy about that. In 2008 we played in the final of the African Women’s Championship (AWC) and we lost to them 3-1. We travelled to them in 2012 after beating Nigeria for the very first time and, understandably so, our emotions were on a high after that achievement, we played Equatorial Guinea two days after and they beat us 4-0, and everyone was asking if we would ever overcome them as they seemed to have the better of us. So here we are, we proved everyone wrong.

We were strong as a team and we believed in ourselves and we knew we were capable of beating them. We saw in the first leg that we could actually defeat them because we were on top and dominated play. That is exactly what we did in the second leg – bar some nerves we created some chances and could have scored early on. We went really strong at them, and we fought hard. We did it and I am extremely proud of the team.

MM: Congratulatory messages have been coming in thick and fast…

JvW: We would like to thank everyone who stayed positive for us and believed in us. Many have been sending us good luck messages and we appreciate all of that. This team would not have achieved this great feat without the support of the country. We have proved that we are capable of winning things, we have also proved that we are one of the best sporting codes in South Africa, and all this done with a huge support from everyone. We are keeping women’s football up there and hopefully there will be professional leagues that come with this feat in the next few years. I want to believe women’s football deserves more than they have at the moment.

MM: Does this qualification erase the pain of not going to the World Cup?

JvW: Oh yes it does, because we missed out on a huge event, and this comes very close to that as we will also get to play international teams. This is the next big event that we could have qualified for and we have done it.

MM: For you personally, it’s been great period – winning the Gauteng Sports Personality of the year and now the qualification for Rio Olympics.

JvW: Yes definitely, this has been a memorable two weeks for me, I am really feeling on top of the world at the moment. I got that award, which I could not have won had it not been for the support of my teammates, and then this was the big one. This was the one I wanted most, take nothing away from the awards but all I really cared for was to qualify for the Olympics, which we have done so I am incredibly over the moon and proud of myself and the team.

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