South Africa’s Senior Women’s National Team captain, Janine van Wyk, who will be speaking at the upcoming WFS Africa, speaks about her journey to where she is today. The hard-tackling defender started playing football with the boys and this is where the dream of starting her own club was hatched. She said her will was to help aspiring girls realise their dreams by playing in a conducive environment.
The Banyana Banyana captain said with all the modern equipment available, athletes can realise their maximum potential. She said she will appeal to everyone attending the WFS Africa to pay attention to women football and their needs. On her future, van Wyk says she still has a few goals to achieve before hanging up her boots and is working hard to maintain her professionalism.
In this candid interview WFS Africa, van Wyk who will be one of the key speakers at the WFS Africa said the continent was gradually getting there but needed financial injection to reach the top.
Q: Owning a professional club and captaining the Senior Women’s National team, that must be hectic. How are you managing this?
A: Fortunately for me I have a great and well experienced and knowledgeable team that assists me in ensuring that the club runs smoothly and in an organised manner. This team fully understands that I am currently still highly focused in performing at my best as a player, but respects me enough to still be guided by the manner I would like my club to perform.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself to where you are today.
A: I grew up in Johannesburg and started playing football with boys from the age of 6. I fell in love with the game when I found myself on the side of the field almost every day watching my older cousins play the game. With all the challenges I faced by being the only girl playing with the boys, after some years of playing and overcoming such obstacles, I felt the need to create a platform for young girls who love the game. I wanted them to be able play in a comfortable and enjoyable environment without feeling isolated or threatened like I did whilst playing with the boys. In 2012 my very own football club JVW (Janine Van Wyk) was established.
With the aim of giving back and assisting young girls to reach their dreams, I had dreams of my own as a player to achieve, and one of them was to one day play at a FIFA Womens World Cup, which I finally am proud to say I have achieved by leading the South African Women’s National Team (Banyana Banyana) to our first ever FIFA World Cup.
Today, I am honoured to share my story with these young aspiring girls at my football club with hopes that they can achieve their own personal goals too.
“In the past, football was considered to be a preserve for male athletes but football is now growing at a phenomenal rate within the women sector”
Q: As one of the speakers at the upcoming WFS Africa, what is your message to the football family and what outcomes do you want to see?
A: The message I would like to bring across to the football world is that for a player who has not gone through the development phases but still managed achieve a lot, the sky is the limit with all these facilities available. The young players of today are exposed to all the different resources, development programs and top competitions, it is inevitable that these players can become elite athletes if they apply themselves as professionals.
The one thing I hope to come out of this forum is to open the eyes and minds of investors, corporates and individuals that they need to look at women’s football as one of the fastest growing sport in the world. In the past, football was considered to be a preserve for male athletes but football is now growing at a phenomenal rate within the women sector. But for it to reach its potential, it needs huge support from all sectors of society financially.
Q: Are you happy with the growth of the game in Africa?
A: I am extremely happy with the development of the game in Africa, although I feel that there is still a huge gap between Africa and the rest of the world in terms of development structures, competitive leagues and international games. However, there is always room for improvement and I feel that although it’s moving at a slow pace, the women’s game in Africa is evolving and more players are starting to make names for themselves abroad by playing for top clubs and representing Africa as a whole.
“It is extremely difficult to run a professional club without financial backing or sponsorships”
Q: Why is the corporate reluctant to pour money into women football, is it cultural or the economy is just bad?
A: Personally, I feel that the women’s game in Africa has not yet been fully recognised as much for corporates to invest their money in. Hopefully in a couple of years when Africa is able to compete against top countries, the mind-set will shift. We are gradually moving in the right direction as African female footballers and the world is slowly recognising Africa as a hub of talent following good showings at the Olympic Games and the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Q: What things can Africa learn from Europe to grow the game?
A: One of the main concerns we have right now in terms of women’s football in Africa is development structures which advanced countries have managed to put in place and which I believe is key to success. On top of that, we need highly competitive leagues to challenge players’ abilities on a daily basis. Lastly, players need to be remunerated well if they are to become true professionals. Africa is a couple of steps behind in all the above mentioned points
Q: How are you managing to run the professional club financially?
A: It is extremely difficult to run a professional club without financial backing or sponsorships. We started the club by using our own personal incomes, which we still do when the going gets tough but it’s not easy. We want to turn our players into professionals and that doesn’t happen when you are financially handicapped. This is where we want corporates to assist us in any way they can.
Q: How many more years are still left for you to play at the highest level?
A: I haven’t thought about retiring just yet as I have a couple of goals and targets I have set out for myself to achieve. Until then, I will push myself to work hard to stay on top of my game. Realistically, I know I am slowly getting to the end of my career, but I believe I am still able to achieve what I have set out to achieve before the time comes to hang up my boots.