By Janine Anthony
It’s one of the world’s top women’s league; a league that breeds world champions, the United States of America. The National Women’s Soccer league (NWSL) 2017 season will commence on April 15 and will stretch across 23 weeks.
As with the world’s top footballers, African players continue to see their stock rise and the very best from the continent set sail to fields anew, one of such being the much heralded NWSL.
Last season, Francisca Ordega’s strike sent Washington Spirit to their very first NWSL final. Like her, another African player will be looking to emulate her success on and off the pitch.
Let’s visit the teams who’ll be parading the African contingent this season.
Venue: Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex
Coach: Jim Gabbara
Player: Francisca ‘Franny’ Ordega
The Gboko-born attacker has been enjoying her time at the capital since her move in 2015 from Swedish Damallsvenskan side, Piteå IF. Scoring five goals and notching as many assists in two seasons, the three-time Africa Women Champion is fondly remembered as the goalscorer who took the Spirit to its first ever NWSL Championship with a game winning extra time strike. In January, after losing the final to Western New York Flash via penalties, the Spirit agreed to a season-long loan deal for the 5’2″ star with Australia’s W-league title contenders, Sydney. With her return to the squad in February for preseason, the 24-year-old Nigerian becomes one of two Africans who’ll be seeking to create history by winning a maiden NWSL title.
Her first task, albeit sidelined with injury, will be to cheer on her side to exact revenge on the team that stood in Spirit’s way to the title, – current NWSL Champion -, the North Carolina Courage, formerly known as Western New York Flash. The game kicks off at 3:00PM ET (8:00PM GMT, 9:00PM Nigeria time) at the Maureen Hendricks Field, Maryland SoccerPlex on Saturday, April 15.
2) Houston Dash
Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Coach: Randy Waldrum
Player: Janine van Wyk
Over the years, South Africa has produced the some of the continent’s most inspiring figures. Their leadership have spread through human rights, entertainment and unsurprisingly, football. Janine joins these African elites and ticks the box as one of Africa’s leading female stalwarts. She captains the Banyana Banyana women national team of South Africa and is one of the few players on the continent (men and women),who have bagged more than 100 caps for country (142).
The 5’4″ Alberton-born defender made her dream professional move in the offseason at the back of an eventful 2015/2016 where she captained South Africa at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, Rio 2016 Olympic Games, All-Africa Games and the 9th Africa Women Cup of Nations 2016 where she was nominated as one of the four finalists for the African Footballer of the Year Award, with Nigeria’s and Former Arsenal star, Asisat Oshoala, the eventual winner.
Janine, 29, in Dash’s fourth NWSL season, will welcome Chicago Red Stars at the BBVA Compass stadium on Saturday, April 15 (2:00PM ET, 7:00PM GMT, 8:00PM Nigeria time).
Whatever the outcome of the season opener and the follow up game, these two will be in action on opposing sides of the field when they face off on matchday three of the 2017 NWSL season.
Right about now, It’s Game On!