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COSAFA Women's Cup

2019 Cosafa Women's Cup: Janine van Wyk

7:25 PM WAT 27/07/2019
Janine Van Wyk
Goal profile five of the top stars of the upcoming Cosafa Women's Championship, ahead of the tournament's kick-off on July 31

Janine van Wyk is one of the most recognisable stars of the women’s game in Africa, and has been a key figure in South Africa’s recent successes within the continental and international arena.

Born in Alberton, in South Africa’s Gauteng Province, in 1987, van Wyk has come a long way since she first cultivated a passion for the sport as a youngster.

She began playing when she was six, and represented Scaw Metals in Germiston, to the east of Johannesburg, after being told she had to play with the boys.

It wasn’t an easy road, and despite being given the cold shoulder by some of her teammates, the young Afrikaner was toughened up by this early toil.

"At first it was really difficult to fit in,” she told BBC Sport in June. “The boys wouldn't pass me the ball, they didn't accept me into the team so I was kind of isolated from everything.

"The reason I continued was the determination of wanting to do well. I knew I had it in me to be a good player. I wasn't weak, I could kick a ball and I just loved playing the game."

She eventually integrated into girls football at Spring Home Sweepers, where she again had to overcome more obstacles—the trip to the township for matches, as well as the novelty of a white girl playing the sport.

The 32-year-old subsequently moved to Moroka Swallows, and then on to Palace Super Falcons, where she was a three-time Sasol league winner.

Van Wyk also founded her own club—JVW FC—in 2013, and acted as player-coach either side of a spell with Houston Dash in the United States.

It’s in the international arena, however, that van Wijk has truly built her reputation, and she heads into the Cosafa tournament with 169 South Africa caps under her belt—more than any of her compatriots in history, male or female.

She represented Banyana Banyana at two Olympic games—captaining the national side in 2016—and was influential at the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana in 2018 as Desiree Ellis’s side reached the final.

On that occasion, they were defeated by Nigeria, but this already represented their joint-best performance at the tournament and their best since they also fell in the final in Equatorial Guinea in 2012.

However, while Banyana missed out on the title, they’d achieved their bigger aim—to secure a maiden berth at the Women’s World Cup, which took place in France earlier this year.

Van Wijk won many plaudits for her performances at the AWCON, securing a spot in Caf’s Team of the Tournament as a result, and will now look to achieve further success at the COSAFA Cup, as Banyana go in search of their sixth title.