A few months ago, Janine van Wyk was nursing an injury, right in the middle of strict lockdown restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the deadly pandemic Covid-19 in South Africa.
Never, in her wildest dreams, did she think a few months later she’d be hours away from playing in a major competition such as the Champions League.
But thanks to a quick Instagram search, she finds herself on the cusp of trudging onto her dream. Her new Scottish side Glasgow City locks horns with Wolfsburg tonight in a Uefa Women’s Champions League quarter-final clash in San Sebastián, northern Spain.
“It honestly feels unreal,” Van Wyk said in an exclusive interview with FARPost.
The Banyana Banyana skipper completed her return to Europe after joining the Scottish champions on July 14 and united with her teammates 2 weeks later in the build-up to their European campaign.
And the move came about in spectacular fashion – right on Instagram.
“It happened over social media,” said the 33-year-old. “I was searching for a club abroad to play for because of the situation in South Africa and women’s football not currently active, so it happened that Glasgow was looking for an experienced defender too, so they reached out to me and within 3 weeks I found myself signed for a top team in Scotland.”
The defender left Danish giants Fortuna Hjorring earlier this year without having kicked a ball in competitive matches during her 6-month stay. She had joined the Danish side in August 2019 after ending her 2-year stint with Houston Dash in November 2018.
“After the World Cup my plans were to stay in SA and play for my team JVW, but instead I’m now a few hours away from playing in a major competition such as the Champions League. It’s a big moment in my career and I will certainly make the most of it,” she added.
Van Wyk will not be fazed by the big stage, having led Banyana in the African Cup of Nations and the World Cup. Although her team goes into the tie bearing the underdog tag, Van Wyk is upbeat they could cause their revered opponents an upset.
“I definitely think the team has done great to get this far in this competition. However, the bigger clubs always have an advantage over smaller clubs like Glasgow with top class players, so it will be a difficult task, but anything can happen in a game of football,” said Van Wyk, the most-capped footballer – male or female – in South Africa.
She, however, conceded she isn’t as ready as she was for any other previous major competitions “because of the pandemic that has made it difficult for footballers to play regularly”.
But Van Wyk, who is also the most-capped African woman, said she worked hard to get as ready and as fit as can be for the match tonight.
By Mthokozisi Dube