#TuksFootball: Wendy Shongwe promises Banyana Banyana will take the fight to the Netherlands in the Round of 16 at the FIFA Women’s World Cup

Posted on August 05, 2023

To make South Africa proud. That is the challenge Banyana Banyana are set for tomorrow when they clash against the Netherlands in the round of 16 of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

"What motivated us is to make history, remembering everyone back at home who's been behind us, and sending the good luck messages. We have to step up, not only for ourselves, Banyana Banyana, but for South Africa," said Wendy Shongwe, who made her World Cup debut against Italy.

"Beating Italy and qualifying for the playoffs will forever remain one of the most memorable moments of my career. However, our quest is still ongoing. We are going to play to win against the Netherlands."

The Netherlands secured the top spot in the tournament's Group E courtesy of an emphatic 7-0 victory over Vietnam. The 2019 runners-up will be favourites to progress to the uarterfinals. The last time the two teams clashed, the Netherlands won 5-1.

South Africa reached the knockout phase for the first time after Thembi Kgatlana scored a dramatic late winner against Italy. Though many might bet against the 54th-ranked team to cause another major upset, it would be foolish to bet against Banyana Banyana. They will have no fear heading into this fixture against another much higher-ranked opponent.

As to how it felt to finally make her World Cup debut, Shongwe said being on the field amid the action is certainly better than sitting on the bench.

"I won't lie. Sitting on the bench is stressful, especially in the game against Italy. They came at us with everything. But hats off to my teammates for how they handled the pressure. It was beautiful to watch. I got highly motivated by our team's never say die attitude. They gave as well as they got. That is why we conquered Italy," said the Tuks player.

"It has been a dream to play at the World Cup. When I was told to warm up, I was so happy. There are no words to describe how it felt. Still, I had a slight case of the jitters. The last thing I wanted to do was let the team and South Africa down. The moment I stepped on the field, the nerves went away. It was my time to shine.

"When the whistle blew for the final time, it was as if I was dreaming. But I was not. The result was real. We made history with the help of God."
The Tuks student-athlete only made a comeback to playing football in 2021. Shongwe did so partly because she promised her dad she would take up football again after finishing matric at TuksSport High School.

The story of Shongwe's return to playing football has a nice human touch. One of her earliest sporting memories was chasing after a football in the streets of Daveyton. She was holding more than she was playing against the boys. But her talents were not restricted to dribbling and scoring goals. She was also an avid middle-distance runner. She quit playing football in high school because challenging the stopwatch over 800 metres gave her a bigger thrill.

In 2017, she won bronze with her second all-time best (2:13.86) in the girls' 800m at the South African School Championships in Durban. The whole time she was running, her dad "begged" her to start playing football again. That is when she made the promise. The COVID national lockdown turned out to be the clincher.

"I put on weight during the lockdown. It impacted my self-esteem. I knew I had to get active again. I did not want to start running again. Athletics is, at times, a very lonely sport. Most times, you have to motivate yourself to push the limits.

"So I started playing football, as I promised my dad I would. It was the team aspect of football that did it for me. It is exciting to be part of a group of girls who have the same goal and are prepared to push each other to be the best. It is a case of one for all and all for one."

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

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