Banyana star owes it to dad to play in the World Cup

'He always wanted me to play football rather than running’

Sihle Ndebele Journalist
Wendy Shongwe during the Banyana Training on 25 June 2023 at UJ Sports Grounds.
Wendy Shongwe during the Banyana Training on 25 June 2023 at UJ Sports Grounds.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

World Cup-bound Banyana Banyana midfielder Wendy Shongwe already had auspicious moments as a runner, racing with none other than renowned two Olympic gold-medalist Caster Semenya at some point.

Shongwe’s brilliance on the track once saw her compete with Semenya in one of the training sessions when the former was a pupil at Tuks Sport High School in Pretoria. Semenya was a Tuks athlete at that time.

In 2017, the Banyana star won bronze with second all-time best (2:13.86) in the girls’ 800m at the SA School Championships in Durban. 

It was rather the recrudescence of Covid-19, coupled with her father’s never-dying push, that would see Shongwe trade her promising athletics career for football.

“I started playing football when I was still very young in primary school,” Shongwe told Sowetan during Banyana’s media open-day at UJ Auckland Park campus on Wednesday.

“When I went to high school, I then started to love athletics until Covid-19 happened. During Covid-19, I gained weight and realised that it’d be difficult for me to return to athletics. So, I decided to play football again after matriculating in 2021. At high school I used to train competitively with Caster as she was a Tuks athlete.”

Shongwe’s father always wanted his daughter to play football and that the 20-year-old from Springs will be representing SA at the Fifa World Cup, to be co-staged by New Zealand and Australia from July 20 to August 20, makes the old man proud.

“Again, it was always a promise to my dad that after matric I will go back to playing football. He (her father) always wanted me to play football rather than running because he believed I was a good player than a good runner. He feels vindicated and happy that I am going to the World Cup. I owe it to make him proud because his desire for me to play football played a huge role in my career.

“I am very happy to be part of the final World Cup squad and I am looking forward to experiencing such a big tournament,” Shongwe added.

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