The USA are comfortably the most successful country in the history of women’s soccer and have a well-paid domestic league where players can make a career from the game.
For Banyana Banyana to be exposed to not just the calibre of opponent, but the opportunity ‘to be seen’, and perhaps signed, is something many have waited a long time for.
“We’ve been talking among ourselves that this is a dream come true for all of us and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that we will never forget,” captain Janine van Wyk acknowledges. “We know that it will probably be the toughest opponent that we will face in our lives.”
Banyana coach Vera Pauw has previously told KickOff.com that she feels South African players are undervalued and that many more should be plying their trade abroad.
The problem has been exposure to the global game, with their continued inability to reach the Women’s World Cup finals meaning the players are little known.
“I look at players that I know signing with clubs in Europe and in many instances I think, ‘but our players are better or would add more to the team’,” Pauw says. “But you know, if people don’t see you, then they never get to know about you or they think you are a bit of a risk.
“And this is why the Olympics are so important for our players because this is where they can be noticed by clubs and hopefully get signed. That would show thousands of women in South Africa that there is a future for them in the game where they can earn a living playing.
“That should attract more people to play and by growing our player pool, we should improve as a national team. It is very important.”
Banyana goalkeeper Roxanne Barker sealed a move to Dutch club SC Heerenveen on the back of two matches against the Netherlands last month.
The match against the USA is, of course, also vital preparation for the Olympics next month, where South Africa face hosts Brazil, China and Sweden.
Banyana’s clash with the USA will not be televised in South Africa, but KICK OFF will provide updates from Soldier Field via our social media platforms. The match is scheduled to start at 19h00 SA time.