Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk is keeping her eye on the ball ahead of the Fifa Women’s World Cup in June.
For Van Wyk the tournament is not just another bucket-list item to tick off, but a lifelong dream she has had since the age of 14 when she first became aware of what women could achieve on the football field.
“It was only when I reached 15/16 when I started hearing about the women’s national team (Banyana), watching them play on TV once a year and also wishing to be seen as that role model to young girls just as Portia Modise, Veronica Phewa and Desiree Ellis were to me. That’s why I’ve really stuck it out, with all the challenges that I’ve faced,” said Van Wyk.
“One of my biggest dreams was to qualify for the World Cup and I can finally say that I’ll be one of the leaders going into the World Cup, leading the country and nation. That only makes me proud. I’ve worked really hard for it and I’m proof that hard work really pays off.”
For the captain, this first ever World Cup qualification is not only for the team, but for all upcoming female players who will not have to go through the societal bullying that she was subjected to, because of her gender.
“When I was younger, I felt bullied to not play the sport. People would tell me not to play this and that but would rather prescribe a ‘preferred’ sport for women. But this great stride will allow women to be comfortable and free in doing what they love. And Banyana are doing all they can to gear up.
“This being our first time participating at the World Cup, going against teams that have been there since the Fifa Women’s World Cup was established is a big deal. We will take it step by step as we are still in the building phase, compared to the other teams that are currently playing there. Our biggest aim is to get out of the group stage, but our first game will be the most vital and important as it will determine our confidence going into the next game and get us to the next stage,” she said.
Outside of her professional football duties, Van Wyk is also a proud owner of JVW FC another platform to encourage the sport among women, “and give the girls an opportunity that I never had when I was growing up”.
This coming Saturday, she will be participating in the Gauteng All Star Games, a four-team tournament that includes Team Simphiwe, Team Portia and Team Keneilwe alongside hers.
“The tournaments are a fantastic initiative that bring together present and future players, to make a big day of it by celebrating women’s football and its future.”
The tournament will take place at the Tsakane Stadium from 10am and entrance is free.