Roxanne Barker, the number one goalkeeper of the South African Senior Women’s National Team, Banyana Banyana, has signed a one-year contract with SC Heerenveen Vrouwen – this is a Dutch women’s football club from in the women’s Eredivisie.
The move comes just a few weeks before the squad leaves for Brazil to play in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, which kick off in August.
She will join her new teammates almost immediately after the tournament.
Barker was spotted recently when the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana travelled to The Netherlands where they played two international friendly matches. Scouts for the Dutch team saw Barker in one match, and did not hesitate to sign her.
<Scroll down to read SAFA’s Interview with Roxanne Barker, and her Player Profile>
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SAFA Media sat down with Barker after she heard the news:
Matlhomola Morake: Good news and congratulations, how do you feel?
Roxanne Barker: I am very happy about it, and I think it is going to help me become more known in Europe, which is difficult when you are an African-based player. It’s hard for clubs to see you and they don’t want to risk their money to bring you over when they can use their own players, so it’s good that we got to play in Europe and they (Heerenveen) could come to the game and watch me play. The video that you may send them cannot really help with making a decision because at the end of the day they want to see you in action and they ask if you can fly yourself over – which means as an individual you take a chance to spend money to travel and see if they like you or not. So The Netherlands match was perfect timing.
MM: This is something you have always wanted, but did you expect it to come so soon?
RB: I guess I did in a way because I took the chance to leave Iceland, assuming that being in the squad with coach Vera, who is also well known, that I would get to be seen more – especially with the programme that she had planned out for us. So I thought along the way I would get the opportunity, if not I would go back to Iceland.
MM: Now you are reaping the rewards for that decision to leave Iceland?
RB: Well they had asked me to come back after the Olympics. Their season is only six months long but it’s a great league. I am going to miss my teammates, I can’t lie – those girls are amazing, but I am also excited that I will get a different kind of training and I believe Holland has some of the best trainers in the world.
MM: And you surely can’t wait to get there?
RB: Yes very much so. I will be going after the Olympics as soon as I get my visa. But I am also sad that I have to away again from my family, but I really can’t wait for the adventure to begin because this is a dream come true for me.
MM: And credit must also go to the whole team – coach Vera, the technical team, and the players …
RB: Definitely, this is a team sport. Goalkeeper coach Francis Chansa has been training me for months so he is responsible for the way I am playing, the improvement I have made so far. He pushed me really hard and now I am reaping the fruits of hard work. Coach Vera just has an awesome programme, and has done a lot for the team, and sometimes people don’t see it, but she has. I am expecting a lot more girls to get contracts because of what she is doing and I don’t think people realise how much she cares about each player and I sometimes ask her “why are you here” with all the troubles in women’s football, especially here in South Africa where there is not a lot of money and not a lot of support. We have our sponsor Sasol, who have been really amazing and been behind us all the way, as well as SAFA who are doing the best they can for us, and women’s football in general. Obviously coach Vera could go anywhere but she chose us, and she is here for us, to help us grow as people and as players. I wish people would give her more credit than she is getting.
MM: Your move augurs well for the other Banyana Banyana players that they can also make it!
RB: Of course. We have some fantastic players in the squad, they just need to realise that they can also make it overseas. It’s a difficult thing to leave your family, your country and be in a completely different culture where you sometimes feel out of a place a bit. Having said that I think our South African players are good enough to play overseas.
MM: How would you compare the Dutch league to Iceland?
RB: Iceland is a very physical league, it’s has a lot of big, fast and strong girls. It’s similar in level but in Holland it’s much more technical.
MM: Now that you have a contract don’t you have the fear that you will slack?
RB: No, not at all. Yes the Netherlands is a good league but there are better leagues so there is always that chance of moving higher and, now that I have signed for an overseas team you need to remember that there are a lot of other players who want your spot, so you can’t afford to drop the ball, you have to keep working hard. And besides my goalkeeper coach will not have that, he always wants us to perform at our best, he is quite intense at training and if I get lazy or anything he will call me to order.
MM: What do you know about your new team?
RB: I don’t actually know much about them but I know they didn’t perform very well last year and the year before. It doesn’t matter much to me, but I believe playing there will help me grow as a player. I will get great goalkeeper training everyday, which is something not always available for women’s football in South Africa.
MM: Words of inspiration to your teammates.
RB: Just believe in yourself, you are all amazing and any of you could play overseas. And when that happens it will only make things better for women who want to play football in South Africa, which will show that our local players have something to offer to the world. This will also give a dream to other female footballers out there that would otherwise not have had one.
MM: We are playing the USA before the Olympics, your thoughts on that match?
RB: First of all I expect us to come out and play well, and show our quality. But remember we are playing the number one in the world and Olympic champions, so I we can expect a tough encounter, but I also have faith in my teammates that we can do well. I believe we will put up a decent fight. I never thought that someday I would play against the USA, but here it is and I am looking forward to it. So we just have to go there and show what we are capable of, and of course, learn as much as we can from them because they are top of the world currently. We need to know what they right.
MM: Overall preparations for the Olympics?
RB: We are looking really good. I never thought we could play the way we are playing but the team has changed a lot over the past few months. It’s been an amazing journey for all of us. We just can’t wait for the start of the Games to show what we have been doing.
- Full Names: Roxanne Kimberly Barker
- Place of Birth: Pietermaritzburg
- Nickname: Roxy
- Date of birth: 06/05/1991
- Position: Goalkeeper
- Current Club: SC Heerenveen Vrouwens
- Club History: Thor/KA (Iceland), Maties, Pepperdine University (U.S.A), Durban Ladies
- Honours: 2012 London Olympics, Four Time NCAA Division 1 WCC selection, LA Soccer News Women’s College Player of the Week.
- Caps: 27
- Goals: 0
- Banyana debut: v Zimbabwe on 10 December 2011
- Favourite local Player: Itumeleng Khune
- Favourite International Player: Oliver Kahn, Petr Cech
- Favourite local club: Ajax CT
- Favourite club abroad: Chelsea FC
- Favourite Music: Hip Hop and House
- Educational Background: Pepperdine University Bachelors in Biology
Photo 1 caption: Roxanne Barker, the number one goalkeeper of the South African Senior Women’s National Team, Banyana Banyana, has signed a one-year contract with Dutch club SC Heerenveen Vrouwen. Photo: SASOL in Sport
Photo 2 caption: SC Heerenveen Vrouwen a Dutch football club in the women’s Eredivisie, or premier division. Image: SC Heerenveen Vrouwen
Photo 3 caption: Barker credits SASOL Banyana Banyana’s head coach Vera Pauw and goalkeeper coach Francis Chansa for her readiness for the Dutch women’s league team, a platform built after seasons studying and playing in the USA, and her most recent signing at Iceland’s Thor/KA team. Photo: SC Heerenveen Vrouwen
With editing by gsport