Banyana Banyana and the men’s Under-23 side have qualified for an Olympics at the same time for the first time, a noteworthy achievement in an epoch of South African teams covering themselves in failure at most available opportunities. Whether either side will go far in Brazil appears unlikely.
Banyana are ranked several notches below their opponents on the global scale, hardly surprising when you consider the resources and professional set-ups in the US, China and Sweden.
If the men’s team have a slightly easier group, and benefit from the extra unknown factor that a youth tournament always supplies, I have serious doubts as to whether the squad Owen da Gama has at his disposal has the quality to make it out of the group stages.
The men open against Brazil, which will always bring back the memories of the year 2000, and South Africa’s famous 3-1 win over the Selecao at the Sydney Olympics. Yet South Africa never made it out of their group and they had, to my mind, a better squad of players, with the likes of Benni McCarthy, Quinton Fortune and Siyabonga Nomvethe in their ranks.
And Da Gama’s troops could yet surprise – a victory over Iraq is not out of the question, and a point against Brazil or Denmark could then be enough to reach the quarterfinals. It is certainly a chance for the likes of Keagan Dolly, Abbubaker Mobara and Gift Motupa to attract the attention of European scouts.
Vera Pauw has also indicated that she hopes a good performance from Banyana in Brazil can get some of her players professional contracts overseas. Banyana may not win a game at Rio 2016, but if some of their players can get careers out of the Olympics, it will have been more than worth it. And if Banyana do win a game, it should go down as a major achievement whether they go further in the tournament or not.
Inside this week’s Phakaaathi, we bring you analysis of Banyana and the men’s team’s first opponents. Brazil for the boys but first, Sweden for the girls. We also hear from Steve Lekoelea, who was part of the Amaglug-glug side that beat Brazil, and he has a warning for Da Gama’s men.
Elsewhere, we reflect on the weekend’s Carling Black Label Cup, a morale-booster for Kaizer Chiefs. We look at how the Amakhosi and Buccaneers players rated, though it is unlikely that the result will have much bearing on the season ahead, especially as the coaches of both sides did not pick the starting teams.
I actually thought that Pirates mentor Muhsin Ertugral and Chiefs coach Steve Komphela both impressed with their substitutions in the second half.
Pirates fans can salivate over the prospect of Bernard Morrison and Riyaad Norodien tearing defences to pieces next season, while Chiefs may well have snapped up another unknown star in Zambian Lewis Macha.
We also bring you the reaction of Komphela and Ertugral to the game.
In our regular one-on-one feature, we speak to Cheslyn Jampies, who is enjoying life at Bloemfontein Celtic, after the disappointment of relegation with Jomo Cosmos last season.
And in Youth Watch, we speak to Wandile Makhanya, a star for Tuks in last year’s MultiChoice Diski Challenge.