SA star Van Wyk can't wait to face Chicago Red Stars

SA star Van Wyk can't wait to face  Chicago Red Stars
Florence Dadson of Ghana challenges Janine Van Wyk of South Africa during the Women Africa Cup of Nations 3rd place match between Ghana and South Africa 02 December 2016 at Yaounde Stadium Pic Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix

by Austin Ditlhobolo

Thursday Apr 13, 2017. 10:00

South Africa's women national team captain Janine Van Wyk is looking forward to her first season in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) in the U.S.A.

The experienced defender joined NWSL outfit Houston Dash last December and the team has been busy preparing for the 2017 campaign.

Dash will open their season with a home fixture against Chicago Red Stars on Saturday, 15 April at BBVA Compass Stadium.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) media officer Matlhomola Morake caught up with the Banyana Banyana captain in an interview on the SAFA's official website.

Matlhomola Morake: How are things going that side?

Janine van Wyk: I have settled in quite well, but I am still trying to adapt to certain things over here such as the environment, new faces and people, being away from family and friends, time difference. But I am taking each day as it comes and so far I am coping very well. Soon I will be back to “normal” where I will feel comfortable again.

MM: How different is the club setup compared to what you are used to back in SA?

JvW: It is quite different to what I am accustomed to – we train everyday, have meetings and video sessions almost everyday. Back home at club level I was used to training twice a week with the team and every other day alone so as to keep in shape. It is nice to play at this level, training is highly competitive as every player is fighting for a spot in the first eleven and I guess it all comes down to working very hard to get your spot – but I like it like that.

MM: How do you find the area you are staying in, and what do you do in your spare time?

JvW: The area I am staying in is beautiful and peaceful. The shops are nearby and it is a walking distance from my place. During my spare time I take a nice walk or rest in my room and watch movies and sports – and, of course, speak to my family and friends as much as I can because the time difference (South Africa is seven hours ahead of Houston) makes it difficult to communicate with everyone all the time. All the travelling we do with the team as well as training, force to me rest when I find time. Remember also that I have been here for a month only, so as soon as I get to know the place better, I will do some exploring of the Texan state, but right now I need to first settle as much as I can.

MM: You have played some practice matches since arriving there – how have you fared so far?

JvW: We have played five practice matches and I have appeared in all of them. We recently played a tournament in Portland, Oregon and because we had to play three games in just seven days, it made it difficult to recover especially because we are still in pre-season training, so I was rested in the last match in Portland because of fatigue. But I had to play the last minutes of the match when I replaced an injured player.

MM: So how was your first game in your new club?

JvW: In the first game we played against Baylor College and it was a bit difficult because I didn’t know the structure of the team very well, and I was also playing with different players who had a different style of football I was used to - so it made very difficult for me to play my own game. But with time and lots of training it’s coming along much nicer and it is now easier. We played Texas A&M a couple of days ago and, with my confidence back, my qualities showed on the field - and the coach was pleased with my performance. So I'm happy that I'm slowly getting used to it all.

MM: Looking forward to your first official match?

JvW: Of course, I can’t wait for Saturday when we face Chicago Red Stars at home. This is what I have been training for and with things looking easier on the field by the day, I wait with great anticipation to play my first official match. I am a bit nervous but I know the first few touches will be crucial to get my rhythm going. I now have a better understanding of my teammates and I hope I am in the starting lineup and then crown it all with a win - that will make me very happy. Any player wants to win when they get on to the field and I am no different.

MM: What can we expect from the season ahead, from you in particular?

JvW: Well apart from every single game being highly competitive, it will be vital for me to recover well and get ready for the next fixture. You can always expect me to give my best to help contribute and lead my team to victory.

MM: You have said this was your dream come true – is that still the case?

JvW: Right now I am living my dream and it is absolutely amazing. Sometimes I still can't believe that I am here playing in this top league.

MM: How does your playing in the USA (together with all the other players based abroad) help Banyana Banyana?

JvW: I keep telling my friends and family back home that so many players in Banyana Banyana deserve to play in a pro league. The players we have here at Houston Dash and in the NWSL league, are good, but I feel that some players that I have played with in the National Team could easily get a spot in one of these clubs in this league. I’ve played with very good players at Banyana Banyana and I feel that we are just not exposed enough to the world. Hopefully my performance over here will make scouts and coaches look at more South Africans and bring them over because I believe they can add more value. I know we have the talent in our country to have players playing across the world.

MM: When can we expect you back at home?

JvW: I will be back in October when the season finishes or when called up for national team duties.

MM: Thanks for your time and all the best this season.

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