At 35, Janine van Wyk is playing her eighth and final African Cup of Nations for women. In Morocco, the charismatic South African captain hopes to qualify for the next World Cup before retiring from international football. A victory at CAN 2022 and a participation in the 2023 World Cup with Banyana Banyana would complete a unique career, which has exceeded the limits of the football fields.
From our Special Envoy to Morocco,
We will soon no longer see his blonde man on the field for the African Cup of Nations. After eight consecutive final stages, Janine van Wyk has decided to say goodbye to CAN. The 35-year-old defender will stretch his international career if, and only if, the South African national team qualifies for the semi-finals of AFCON 2022 and therefore for the World Cup 2023. “It would be my last tournament for my country because I would like to finish my career with style and it would be the perfect and perfect event for it, ”she explains.
Janine van Wyk experienced the intoxication of two Olympic Games (2012, 2016) and a World Championship (2019), the first in Banyana Banyana’s history. But never a continental title. “This is one of the goals I would like to achieve before retiring,” admits the loser on penalties against Nigeria in the final of the latest CAN. But she assures that it is not this hunt for the title that drives her to continue. “I have made many sacrifices throughout my career to come here and that is what motivates me to continue to give everything I have to this game,” she said.
From a township team to their own club
Janine van Wyk’s career is not ordinary. She was born and raised in the Johannesburg area and discovered football in an African environment. But to live out her passion, the one who is still a young girl joined the club in a township, Springs Home Sweepers. A nerve that obviously pleased the residents of KwaThema. “I used to attract people to the stadium just because people wanted to see the white girl play football,” she told the BBC in 2019.
In 2012, in parallel with her professional career, Janine van Wyk embarked on an iconoclastic project. It creates a football club, JVW FC, on its own funds. “The club was created with the aim of offering to help girls practice this sport in a comfortable environment to express their talent, assures the one who is therefore the club’s founder, protector and … player. Many girls were discriminated against because they played with boys and stopped play and I wanted to change that ”.
The ex-resident of Houston Dash (USA) and Glasgow City (Scotland) was a contemporary of many dramas in the world of women’s football, including the worst, such as the rape and murder of her ex-partner in the national team, Eudy Simelane, 2008. “It is sad to know that there are so many female athletes who are victims of abuse in sport, says this diversity apostle and activist for the LGBT cause.It is difficult to deal with because we know that it used to be considered a male-dominated sport and many coaches were men before, which did situations like this more common years ago. “
Source of inspiration
From the top of his 35 years and his approximately 180 matches in the national team (women’s and men’s records together, in South Africa), however, he had the opportunity to see things develop in the right direction. “Women’s soccer has gained recognition in recent years,” she said. There are now opportunities for careers there, not only on the pitch but also outside, as with the presenters, experts, coaches, etc.
And when the football player is asked if she would see herself going as far as the presidency of her association, she answers amused: “It seems a little too political to me! But on the other hand, I’m working on becoming a football coach one day. Whether it’s leading Banyana Banyana or a club / country abroad. I would love to work in this field one day. ”
She concludes, full of pride: “I know I have contributed a lot to women’s football in my country, influenced many girls to be the best version of themselves and done my best to serve South Africa as a leader in this game. And I will to continue to be a role model for the next generation of players and to encourage them to pave the way for others as well. ”