Menzi Masuku says SA U-23s were determined to make history by qualifying for the Olympics
Posted: 14 December 2015 Time: 11:11
National U-23 midfielder Menzi Masuku says the prospect of making history outweighed the team's fear of losing their Olympic qualifying decider with Senegal.
Owen da Gama's side snapped up the remaining CAF ticket for Rio 2016 after edging Senegal 3-1 on penalties in the third place playoff of the U-23 AFCON in Dakar on Saturday.
South Africa, who lost 3-1 to the west Africans in their tournament opener, previously had a men's football team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Banyana Banyana will also be at Rio 2016, having made their debut at the sporting showpiece in London three years ago.
“This is a remarkable achievement however you look at it,” Masuku told Orlando Pirates' website. “To bounce back from a demoralising semifinal defeat to Algeria and win not only against anybody but the hosts Senegal… a team that beat us in the opening round of the competition, makes this victory even sweeter.
“Many people thought we wouldn’t be able to defeat Senegal especially if you consider what happened in the opening round of the tournament but for us that thought never crossed our minds. We never stopped believing, we were focussed on one thing and one thing only… to qualify for Rio. Our desire to make history by becoming only the second South African football team to qualify for an Olympics was far greater than the fear of facing the hosts in an all-or-nothing encounter.”
U-23 AFCON winners Nigeria and finalists Algeria will also represent the continent at next year's Olympics in Brazil.