Earlier this year in one of the final tune-up matches before traveling to Rio, the USWNT played the South African Women’s National Team for the first time and nearly everyone predicted the game would be a likely bloodbath favoring the American side. But on game day we were treated to a surprisingly tight game, with Crystal Dunn scoring the only goal in the 35th minute. And while Hope Solo did notch her 100th international career shutout–the most ever in the women’s game–as a whole, the match wasn’t quite the cakewalk that one might expect when a team ranked at #1 takes on #52.
One of the reasons South Africa was able to hold the US to a 1-0 game is centerback and captain Janine van Wyk. Van Wyk is the most capped South African player, male or female, with 130 senior international appearances since 2005. And her influence in the development of soccer in South Africa is felt both on and off the pitch, perhaps nowhere more evident than her work with growing nation’s youth game.
In 2012 van Wyk founded the JVW Girls Football Development Program, and recently Backline Soccer spoke with Lauren Duncan, the program’s project manager, about what has been going on in South African soccer and the JVW program that van Dyk started.
Backline Soccer (BS): Why was the JVW Girls Football Development Program (JVW GFD) started?
Lauren Duncan (LD): The Program was started in 2012, to improve, develop and expose women’s soccer. Women’s soccer is slowly on the rise in South Africa, but more needed to be done at grassroots and school levels to give girls an equal playing chance. The JVW GFD Program started with a School League with 12 teams and has now grown to 109 teams within 5 years. The women’s club JVW FC was started a year after the School League as we felt there needed to be a stable environment for identified and talented players to play in, and potentially be able to take the next step in the sport.
BS: What are the main goals of the program?
(LD): To develop young, aspiring and talented players. To create a competitive and structured playing environment at schools level and bridge the gap between school and club players. To promote women’s soccer and raise the standard of the women’s game in South Africa. To produce top players and introduce their talent to the professional soccer world.
(BS): Janine van Wyk is the namesake and founder of the program. Does having the captain of the full NT help in drawing players to the program?
(LD): Yes, of course it does. We have a lot of young girls who look up to and want to be like Janine, and there are many girls who want to be part of the program to gain experience directly from Janine. Janine is very actively involved in the program, and gives a lot of guidance to the younger girls.
(BS): How has the landscape of soccer in South Africa changed since the program was founded?
(LD): Women’s soccer is on the rise throughout the world, and by having this program more girls are now able to play football, and aspire to be part of the program. Although the program is only running in one of the nine provinces in South Africa, more awareness has been created for the women’s game.
(BS): When bringing in new coaches what qualities do you look for to make sure they fit with the program’s ideals?
(LD): We have had coaches in the past whilst we were still testing the waters to see what worked and what didn’t work. We have now started looking at our own players in our Senior teams, to see who can add value to our Program/Club, and are looking to bring in more female coaches to grow the sport at different levels. We look for passionate female leaders in the women’s game who share the same vision for the sport as we do.
(BS): In 5 years where do they see the program?
(LD): In 5 years, we are hoping that there is a professional League for women in South Africa in which our First Team is actively participating in. However, we aspire to be one of the top women’s soccer programs in South Africa, producing elite athletes to professional clubs abroad. We would also like to branch out into other provinces in South Africa, to give other girls the same opportunities as the ones currently participating in the Gauteng Province. We also would like to be a feeder for Scouts/Varsities abroad, and give girls in South Africa opportunity to make a career out of the sport.
(BS): Anything else you think people should know about the program and South African soccer?
(LD): The Club caters to girls from as young as 9 years old, which gives them the option to participate in an all-girls club, and progress throughout the years to eventually make the first team. Our first team have currently been crowned Sasol League Gauteng Champions and are heading to National Playoffs in early December. The Sasol League is the highest league for women in the country, but it is still not considered a Professional League. We have six Senior Women’s National Team Players in our first squad, which adds a huge amount of value to the club.
South African women’s soccer is definitely on the rise with the pool of female players increasing on a daily rate, however as a country we still struggle with proper women’s soccer grassroots/development programs as the sport is still not considered as one of the fastest growing sports in the world. We feel the gap is not having a Professional League for Women, and almost all female soccer players have full day jobs, in order to play soccer.