WH Exclusive: Janine van Wyk Reflects On Her Brilliant Career

by | Dec 7, 2023 | Profile

During her tenure as a soccer player, storied stalwart Janine van Wyk has racked up a good number of accolades. One such triumph is the one and only goal that took South Africa to a win against long-running victors Nigeria in the 2012 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON). Then there’s the stunning number of caps Janine owns – the most in Africa, of any gender. That’s not all. In 2022, her lifelong dream of holding the cup in WAFCON came to a head when South Africa finally won. “I’d always said that before I retire, I wanted to lift that trophy and hang that gold medal around my neck,” says Janine about that moment. “That was the most extraordinary feeling for me. I still get goosebumps talking about it!”

Now, van Wyk has bowed out as a professional football player, right after earning another cap and securing her position as the most-capped African footballer, male or female. We chatted with the stalwart and trailblazer on what gets her ticking and how she overcomes obstacles.

Janine van Wyk during a soccer game

Shaping the future

Janine van Wyk came into the sport at a time when it wasn’t easy for women to play soccer. As a scholar, no schools offered soccer for girls in her area. So Janine ventured to KwaThema, a nearby township east of Johannesburg, where she learned to play. It gave her the confidence to keep at it. “Knowing that I was able to compete with the boys kept me in the game longer,” she says. “You know, when you see yourself being able to compete against boys you automatically become confident in yourself as a girl.”

But the work didn’t end there. During her career, she founded the JVW Football Club, an all-girls institute that caters for school girls wanting to play football. When they started, not many schools were keen on enrolling their girls in the club. But times change, and now she has around 500 school teams that are participating in the JVW Schools League in Gauteng. “I know how difficult it was to find an all-girls team or club to join,” says Janine. “And that is the reason why we established and created a platform for girls to be able to express their talents and feel free in the environment that they’re in.”

READ MORE: Want To Try Soccer? Here’s How To Up Your Game

Staying positive

Of course, the wins and gains in Janine’s career haven’t come without adversity. “I think for any athlete, you face some kind of adversity. No road to success is smooth,” she says. “Any athlete will tell you that. It’s all about sacrifices and hard work and dealing with disappointment and all kinds of failures.”

When this article was written in early 2023, Janine had been snubbed from the team heading into the FIFA Women’s World Cup, a big knock for her. (The coach, however, had indicated that the door is open for her return.) How she deals with disappointment? It’s all about mindset, says Janine. “Whatever I deal with, I always try to go back to past experiences, [thinking about] how I overcame that,” says Janine. “How I’ve overcome any challenge [is] knowing that it is just a temporary challenge, a temporary obstacle for myself to get over and using that as strength to learn from it and become stronger from whatever I’m currently facing,” she says.

READ MORE: Laduma! Here’s EVERYTHING You Need To Know About The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

Getting perspective

All of Janine’s life is dedicated to football, from every sweat session to foods that fuel her, to what goes onto her social media. “I really get limited time to get away from the game,” she shares. “You have a short-term career. And you’re going to have to make use of that time to constantly improve yourself and your performance.” To break away from it all, Janine van Wyk finds solace in her friends and family. “I get at least two or three weeks off which I use to get away and switch off completely from the sport. And during that time, I try to spend as much time with my family and loved ones because I’m always travelling – just to make sure that they know that whatever happens in my career, I’m still me.”

After her last match, Janine reflected on her storied career. “Most of all what has kept me alive is my passion and love for the game. I still say that if people had to say you don’t get paid to play sports, how many people would raise their hands […]? That would be me because it’s not about the money. It’s about the love of the game and the passion that I have for it.”

We salute Janine and thank her for opening the game up for so many women and girls in sport.

READ MORE: Under Armour’s Game-Changer: Meet Robyn Moodaly

This story was first published in the July/August 2023 issue of Women’s Health magazine and was written by Michelle October.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This