South African football legend sets a historic record, showcasing her dedication to the sport and inspiring future generations.
South African legend Janine van Wyk has etched her name into the annals of the sport as the most capped African footballer.
The 36-year-old central defender achieved this remarkable milestone by making her 185th appearance for South Africa in a 2-0 victory over Burkina Faso during the African Women's Cup of Nations qualifying match on Monday.
Van Wyk surpassed the previous record-holder, Egyptian icon Ahmed Hassan, who retired in 2012 after representing his country 184 times
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The historic moment unfolded in the western Pretoria township of Atteridgeville, where Van Wyk, with emotions running high, played for a mere eight minutes before being substituted.
It was a bittersweet moment as she confirmed her retirement, leaving the pitch to thunderous applause and heartfelt hugs from her teammates.
The scorching heatwave temperature, reaching 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), seemed to mirror the intensity of the moment.
"I am deeply grateful to all those who helped me during my long career. I could not have achieved this amazing feat without the help of many others," she expressed with humility and gratitude.
Janine van Wyk's journey began in 2005 when she made her debut for South Africa.
Over the years, she steadily climbed the ranks of international football, reaching the coveted milestone of 100 caps nine years later.
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Her journey to becoming the most capped African footballer was punctuated by memorable moments, including appearances at the 2019 World Cup and the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
Van Wyk's retirement serves as a poignant reminder of the cyclical nature of sports.
She acknowledged the importance of nurturing young talent and making room for the next generation of players. "It is important for senior players like me to accept that younger players are seeking selection. We must develop them, make them feel at home, then we must step aside," she remarked, highlighting her selflessness and dedication to the sport's future.
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South Africa, the defending Women's Cup of Nations champions, can take immense pride in Van Wyk's contributions to their success. Her legacy will undoubtedly inspire future generations of footballers in the nation.
In addition to her international exploits, Janine van Wyk also made her mark on the club scene.
She played for JVW, a Johannesburg club that she founded, leaving an indomitable legacy there as well.
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Her career also took her to international shores, with stints at Houston Dash in the United States, Fortuna Hjorring in Denmark, and Glasgow City in Scotland.
She leaves behind a trailblazing career marked by dedication, perseverance, and an unrelenting passion for the beautiful game.
Her record of 185 international caps is not just a number but a symbol of her enduring commitment to the sport she loves.