JOHANNESBURG – Buoyed by making history by captaining Banyana Banyana in the biggest football tournament on the globe, Janine van Wyk believes they will match the world beaters once the country implements a professional women’s football league.
The South Africans gave a credible account of themselves in their maiden Fifa Women’s World Cup but lost their three group stage matches due to defensive lapses and failure to capitalise when opponents were under pressure.
They finished bottom of Group B which included Spain, China and Germany.
Despite being ranked third in Africa, South African women’s football has not always enjoyed the attention of the country’s soccer administration. In the last 10 years, the team has had one sponsor.
The South African Football Association have dragged their feet in implementing the proposed National Women’s Soccer League - which would be run professionally - and postponed it from April to later this year.
“We know and we could feel that the gap between us and such quality teams is slowly but surely closing, it’s just a matter of more development for us,” Van Wyk stated.
“These players get to play day in and out, at a high level. In South Africa, you have clubs that only train twice a week and sometimes they pitch up at games where the opposition doesn’t arrive. So, it’s very difficult for us to close that gap if there’s no proper development and league structures in place for us to get high competition every week.”
Unlike the hero’s welcome they received at OR Tambo International Airport when they qualified for the World Cup by finishing as runners-up in the 2018 Awcon, Van Wyk and her teammates were met by a subdued crowd yesterday. But Van Wyk was understanding.
“I think a lot of people counted us out when they saw South Africa in such a group,” she said. “They said it was a group of death.
A lot of the people, including the reporters, said it was going to be a walkover for Spain, China and Germany (but) we’ve proved everyone wrong with the way we’ve played our football.”