“The most important thing for me being here is just to show my appreciation.” That was the view of Caster Semenya when visiting Banyana Banyana in Paris on Wednesday.
But the South African women’s football team expressed their gratitude to the 800m Olympic and world champion for making time out of her busy schedule to have lunch with them in the French capital.
Semenya was in town for a 2 000m race in Montreuil, east of Paris, which took place on Tuesday.
The South African star ran a superbly controlled race, where she initially stayed in third behind the pacemakers before maintaining her lead on the final lap to win in an excellent time of 5:38.19, which was just 0.12 of a second behind Zola Budd’s national record.
But before she headed home, Semenya stopped by the Banyana camp ahead of their vital Women’s World Cup clash against China on Thursday at the Parc des Princes stadium (9pm kick off).
She is good friends with coach Desiree Ellis, as well as defenders Noko Matlou and Lebohang Ramalepe, who are also from Limpopo.
“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,” Semenya said in a statement.
“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. 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.”
Guess who came to visit & wish us well for the game tomorrow! Thanks @caster800m for taking time out of your very tight schedule to come see us. You are a true Inspiration 🙌🇿🇦 pic.twitter.com/IQoXxS8R9t
— Janine Van Wyk (@Janinevanwyk5) June 12, 2019
Banyana have to beat the Chinese to stay in contention for a playoff spot, after going down 3-1 to Spain in their opener last Saturday.
Another giant in Germany await in the final group match, but if anyone knows about handling pressure, it is Semenya.
And the Banyana players hope to follow her by winning against China.
“It was a super-cool 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,” said Jermaine Seoposenwe.
Look who came to visit @Banyana_Banyana in France and wish them well ahead of the clash with China tomorrow @caster800m #DareToShine #fifawwc #BanyanaBanyana #LeMomentDeBriller @SAFA_net @bafana_bafana #RSA pic.twitter.com/sgCpPQKu1b
— Banyana_Banyana (@Banyana_Banyana) June 12, 2019
“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.”