History for South Africa in women’s soccer effectively begins in 2012. This was the first year South Africa qualified for the Summer Olympics, nearly 20 years after it played its first ever match. Four years later, South Africa got back to the Olympics and finally this year it made it to the pinnacle, qualifying for the Women’s World Cup for the first time.
South Africa’s first trip to the World Cup officially ended Monday with a 4-0 loss to Germany in Montpellier, France, but even a winless trip to France was history-making.
It started with South Africa’s first game June 8. Even in defeat, South Africa managed to score its first — and only — World Cup goal in its first World Cup match when striker Thembi Kgatlana, the reigning African player of the year, scored in the 25th minute to give South Africa its first World Cup lead.
What will make this a month to remember for South Africa will be the contributions of the older players and even the manager. Desiree Ellis, the manager, played in South Africa’s first match in 1993. Defender Janine van Wyk, the team captain, has played more than 160 matches for South Africa, by far the most in the nation’s history, and even founded JVW F.C., one of South Africa’s biggest clubs, which has expanded from 13 players to more than 60 since she began the team in 2013.
On Monday at Stade de la Mosson, van Wyk got the sendoff she deserved even in defeat. At 32, van Wyke might never get another opportunity to play in a World Cup, so she played all 90 minutes in the blowout loss to one of the World Cup favorites.
The foundation is now in place because players such as her. The next time South Africa makes it to the World Cup, not every moment will be historic. South Africa still has more to do.