Amer­i­can dream

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

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.

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