“Success is not a destination, but the road that you’re on. Being successful means that you’re working hard and walking your walk every day. You can only live your dream by working hard towards it. That’s living your dream.”
These words could not be a better description of Banyana Banyana captain Janine van Wyk. At 31 years old, the hard-as-nails central defender has been the lifeblood of the national women’s team for the past 13 years. She has witnessed the game transform from her amateur days playing kick-about on the red fields of Alberton on the East Rand in Johannesburg to being a full-time professional in the United States for Houston Dash.
And in June she will fulfil a life-long ambition of representing her country at the Fifa World Cup in France after previously also standing with her hand on her heart for the national anthem at two Olympic Games.
Anyone who knows Van Wyk will also attest to the fact that under no circumstances does she want Banyana to head to Paris purely “to make up the numbers.”
Progression to the second round will be an almighty task though, considering Banyana have been drawn with some notable opponents in the form of Germany, China PR and Spain in Group B.
But that is why today’s Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Challenge match against the Netherlands at Cape Town Stadium is of crucial importance to Banyana’s World Cup preparations.
“We know come World Cup, this is the kind of opponent we will be facing. We are obviously playing a team ranked in the top 10 in the world. We know they are highly experienced players and play at a high level. It is going to be a challenge for us, but I feel the team we have now has been together for a long while,” Van Wyk told the media on the eve of the match.
“We have the experience of playing abroad too. Playing at the highest level and bringing it back here. It has become a different challenge for us now to compete against these teams. Getting good results from here on will ensure we are ready for the World Cup. Any opponent that plays us must know it is going to be a tough day at the office.”
Considering her vast experience and ability, Van Wyk will undoubtedly be central to coach Desiree Ellis’ plans for the global football jamboree.
However, the veteran does face an uncertain future at the conclusion of the World Cup, although she is not yet ready to announce that France 2019 will be her final rodeo.
“My passion for the game is so strong, I could possibly play until the age of 40!” she stressed.
“Obviously my dream was always to play at the World Cup. After that, it could be such a major experience and impact on my life and my career that I decide to carry on for another two or three years.
“Because after that it will be All Africa Games, Olympic Games, and you know that a passionate footballer never wants to stop.
"I will make my decision after the World Cup,” Van Wyk added.@ZaahierAdams