Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya visited Banyana Banyana at their Paris base camp in Malmaison to wish the team luck ahead of the 2019 FIFA World Cup clash against China tomorrow (Thursday, 13 June) and for the rest of the tournament.
The South African athletic sensation is in Paris after she took part in, and won, the 2000m race at the Meeting de Montreuil last night.
She finished in a time of five minutes 38.19 seconds – beating Ethiopia’s Hawi Feysa and Adanech Anbesa.
While making her back to South Africa, she made a stop at the Banyana Banyana camp to express her support to her compatriots. Semenya is good friends with Desiree Ellis and defenders Noko Matlou and Lebohang Ramalepe – the latter two hail from Limpopo with Semenya.
“I thought I had to come here and be an inspiration to the team, and I don’t think I had to say much but just being here, my presence, means a lot to them. It simply says one of our own can support them, and if one of our own can win, so can we. This was just a token of appreciation from me to them to show that we are behind them each and every step,” said Semenya.
“They must just be strong and work as a team, and also not lose focus. We may have lost the previous game but we have learnt from it, and we must just go out and rectify the mistakes we made in our last game. We must shine as a team. The most important thing for me being here is just to show my appreciation. We believe they will do well tomorrow as long as we can play as a team, win as a team and walk out there as a team.”
Semenya also met with the President of the South African Football Association (SAFA) Dr Danny Jordaan.
After the meet and greet and posing for a few photographs she had lunch with the team.
The players were elated and very appreciative of seeing the world star.
“It is great feeling meeting Caster here as she came to wish us all the best in the tournament and we know what she is capable of. So it was nice of her to show her support ahead of the match against China,” said Matlou.
“Seeing Caster here is a motivation to the players. Seeing someone like her who is known worldwide gives us more strength towards the game against China, so we are motivated. For someone like to be here shows we have the full support from all the stars in the country,” added Rhoda Mulaudzi.
“It was a supercool experience. She is someone who lifts us up, especially me when you look at the struggles that she has been going through and she is such an inspiration because the way she has been fighting, we can take that fighting spirit to the next match,” concluded Jermaine Seoposenwe.
“For someone like her to tell us that we can do anything we want to do and that anything is possible is just great. I respect her a lot, she has also done a lot in her sport, she is a legend and we appreciate everything she has done for us. I hope we can take the energy that she has brought to the camp, in the little time that she had, into the next match.”
Semenya flies back to South Africa this evening.
Banyana Banyana will have their final training session tonight at Stade Omnisport du Chemin de Ronde in Croissy sur Seine just outside Paris.
The match against China is at Parc des Princes in Paris and kicks off at 21h00.