Pauw was singing the praises of goalkeeper Roxanne Barker who has been snapped up by SC Heerenveen Vrouwen from The Netherlands.
The mentor of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana is optimistic that more players will follow, as there is a lot of talent in this country.
Matlhomola Morake: Good news coming out of the Banyana Banyana camp?
Vera Pauw: It is very good news indeed because it’s the first time that a South African player is signed by a team from The Netherlands. So the fact that Heerenveen has chosen a South African player, with the rules and regulations that are currently in place, is just a tremendous result. It is just fantastic.
MM: Roxanne is very excited about the move, especially after leaving her club in Iceland to focus on Olympic preparations, and now it is paying off.
VP: Indeed, and who knows what will follow because the big thing is that playing in Europe the top clubs will see her. And here in South Africa we are still a bit hidden away. The fact that we played in the Netherlands has made this happen because they came to the game and were impressed with what they saw – which went along with the information that I had passed on to them about her. They had called me for more information on her and they knew I would not make up anything, but will be honest.
MM: So how did this move come about?
VP: To be honest, I was involved in a small way. As I said, they contacted me asking about information on Roxanne after she had written an email to them saying she was looking for a club – which was good initiative from her. Then they called me, and the fact that she played very well against The Netherlands landed her the contract. I only gave out honest views about her play because she has been doing so well for a very long time but at the end it was their decision to sign her.
MM: Just recently you said that Banyana Banyana players deserve contracts because of the way they play, and now it has happened – even before the Olympics.
VP: It is just fantastic and all credit should go to Heerenveen that they took this big step, and this comes at a time when many other countries are starting to take note of our players. But, as I said, with the rules and regulations in place, it is not easy to get a South African player in a club – you have to sort out a few things like work permits and insurance. I think it is coming, and you can feel that suddenly other countries are interested in our players. Just recently we received requests from countries wanting to play us but we don’t have any more time to do so, and that is a good thing to get those requests. We have already been invited for the annual Cyprus Cup for next year, whereas previously it was about “giving a development country a place” or another country has pulled can we fill in, doing this a few weeks before the tournament with little time to prepare. This time we received the invitation a year ahead of time because we have shown a certain level of game, we have shown a positive level of the game, and everybody wants to play us now. And I am not talking about small countries – I mean the big nations.
VP: Obviously one thing that inspires very much is when a teammate reaches a goal that we have set for ourselves, so I said to them it is possible – who’s next? It is because we have the quality, it is not something that is a coincidence, it is something that we have worked for. The players have worked so hard for over two year to get to the stage where they deserve contracts. I am absolutely sure that more will follow very soon.
MM: So who is Heerenveen?
VP: They are a club know for their family-like atmosphere. Even the men’s team has lots of young players from outside the country who live with host families. They always cater for the players’ studies, they have language courses for those who don’t speak Dutch. They use tutors who also help the young ones with schoolwork. In that sense it is a very good club. In terms of play, the level of Heerenveen in the Dutch Women’s League is a bit at the bottom, but they are working their way up – and the first step for them was to get a good goalkeeper. The fact that they have scooped Roxanne with all the goalkeepers available means that when they came to our game she was impressive.
MM: Roxanne signing this contract will help get more experience to Banyana Banyana
VP: Oh yes without doubt. But most importantly it is a fantastic experience for her, and she deserves it like so many players in Banyana Banyana. She has deliberately chosen that club because it is where she will be under pressure, as she will face better opposition, she won’t have time to take it easy. For a goalkeeper that’s a very good thing because it means she will improve with every game. She will get the best training every day, so all the conditions are set for her to become an even better goalkeeper than she is already. With her experience when she returns to Banyana Banyana for matches it means this team will be even better and stronger.
NB: Banyana Banyana will face Olympic and World Champions USA on Saturday, 9 July Saturday, 9 July at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, USA to continue preparations for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The match kicks off at 19h00 South African time.
Banyana Banyana depart on Tuesday, 5 July.