REGARDLESS of what happens in Abuja tomorrow, Janine van Wyk, will leave Nigeria as a winner even if her luggage doesn’t include the CAF’s Women Player of the Year award.
The Banyana Banyana captain received a bigger acknowledgement than an award when she signed a professional contract with US club Houston Dash.
That contract rubberstamped the 29-year-old’s talent as a reliable centre-back while giving the kiss of life to a career that looked to be winding down. Van Wyk had already started to prepare for life after football. She owns JVW FC, which campaigns in the Sasol League and was established in 2012. She is already working on her coaching badges.
Her time in the US will help her refine her talent as she will be exposed to a more competitive level with a different way of doing things. She’ll also learn a lot as a club boss and coach. Because of the numerous hats she wears, Van Wyk will tie loose ends differently before she flies to Houston in March.
“I have to make sure the club will run smoothly while I am away. That means ensuring everything is in place and the transition will be seamless because we do a lot of work in development,” Van Wyk said.
“Thandeka”, as she is nicknamed, oversaw a seamless transition of leadership when she took over the Banyana captaincy from Amanda Dlamini in 2013. The presence of seasoned campaigners like Nompumelelo Nyandeni, Dlamini, Noko Matlou and Portia Modise, during her brief stint in her return, ensured that the side was well led. Van Wyk’s job was to be the face of that leadership and bring stability at the back.
She did that well in Cameroon during the Africa Women Cup of Nations (AWC). Van Wyk was paired with Bambanani Mbane at centre-back. Mbane brought exuberance to the position, playing in her first major tournament. Van Wyk’s experience was vital in that partnership. That’s why she was named in the starting XI of CAF’s Team of the Tournament. That was a further stamp of approval for the captain.
In the same year she impressed in the US during a friendly with the world champions. Banyana only lost 1-0 because of Van Wyk’s stellar performance at the back.
“That friendly set it all up for me,” she said. “I did my best, worked hard and the rest took care of itself.”
Van Wyk became a two-time Olympian after that friendly. In Brazil, during the Games, her timing and reading of the game played a big role in helping Banyana from being embarrassed by either the hosts, China or Sweden. Banyana returned with a confidence-boosting point from Brazil. The side’s poor display in front of goals proved to be their undoing in Brazil and in Cameroon during the AWC. It was worse in the AWC, which is why they finished fourth.