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SA legend Janine van Wyk driven through injury hell by love of football

Janine van Wyk played just one match for Glasgow City, in a 9-1 UWCL defeat, before picking up yet another MCL injury last August. Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images

South Africa women's captain Janine van Wyk is nearing her Scottish Women's Premier League debut with champions Glasgow City, after nearly a year and a half recovering from injuries.

Van Wyk, 33, is her country's most capped footballer, male or female, and has found overseas success late in her career with stints at the NWSL's Houston Dash, and now hopes to get extended game time in Scotland.

The player with the famously multi-coloured hair made her Glasgow City debut in a 9-1 UEFA Champions League quarter-final defeat to Wolfsburg last August, but a medial collateral ligament [MCL] injury sustained in training prevented her from making her domestic bow.

Van Wyk had previously picked up a MCL injury in a COSAFA Cup game against Malawi while on international duty with Banyana Banyana in August 2019.

The former Dash defender joined Denmark's Fortuna Hjรธrring later that month, but remained sidelined for the entirety of her five-month spell.

Now back in training with Glasgow City, van Wyk has weathered yet another spell on the sidelines with tremendous grace and grit, and says that her passion for football is still as strong as ever.

Van Wyk told ESPN: "It just always comes down to the passion and love that I have for the game.

"I wouldn't want to lose time or have one little setback make me think that it's over for me or I should give up and try and do something else.

"Football is my life and I wouldn't want to live without it. Every day is an opportunity to get better, whether you are injured and you want to heal to get better, or you don't have confidence and you need to be that better player.

"One of the qualities that I feel I have is mental toughness. It has obviously built up throughout the years of experience, because there have been many challenges and many ups and downs that I have faced personally. Today, I don't feel that any challenge can get me down."

The thought of retirement, even in the face of all her injuries, is scarier than the rehab and gruelling training to get back to her best after each setback.

The skipper added: "I think the most challenging thing for me, that would really break my heart, is the day that I retire from playing football, but that will come and that will be dealt with when it does.

"I just take every day as a new opportunity for me to be a better player and give the best I can towards the game."

Van Wyk does, however, have aspirations beyond her playing career. Her football club in South Africa, JVW FC, won the 2019 Sasol League and became the first team to win promotion to the SAFA National Women's League.

Through her work in South Africa at JVW FC and the JVW Schools League, as well as her part-time coaching to earn an income at the beginning of her football career, van Wyk has long been a hands-on servant of grassroots women's football.

She has no plans to stop when she hangs up her boots and is currently working towards obtaining her UEFA coaching qualifications in order to advance women's football.

Van Wyk added: "I am currently doing my badges -- my coaching licenses -- I am soon going to start my UEFA B License to get those badges behind my name, because I want to stay in the game, I want to get into coaching.

"I want to help develop young girls -- and not necessarily [only] young girls, but players in general, and just share my expertise and my knowledge that I have gained over the years to other female football players.

"Whether it be in South Africa, starting at my own club, or here in Scotland if they grant me that opportunity, it would be great to remain in the game and continue giving back to women's football."

On the field, van Wyk will be hoping to help Glasgow City retain their SWPL 1 title. They currently sit second in the table, trailing Rangers on goal difference.

The league has been on hold since mid-December due to COVID-19, but teams were given permission to resume training on March 2.