Burnley Women’s FC’s Lana Phillips, 21, arrived to a warm welcome in Windhoek on Saturday, after joining Namibian professional women’s side Rumblers FC.
Phillips, along with former teammate Zoë de Kock, 18, from Mitchell’s Plain, signed for the Windhoek outfit in a move that will see them becoming the first SA players to ply their trade in the Namibia National Women’s League.
Phillips, the eldest of two siblings, says she’s been kicking ball since a young age, starting at the age of 5, playing in the streets of Silvertown where she’s from.
As one might expect, she first joined local side Silver Spurs, before moving to Avendale Athletico and later Hotspurs Ladies FC, in Mitchell’s Plain, where she first teamed up with Zoë.
She’s been with Burnley for the past two seasons and considers herself a natural central attacking midfielder but is comfortable playing as a central defensive midfielder.
She says being named player of the year in one season at Avondale and receiving the award for most improved player at Burnley this season is among the highlights of her career thus far.
Like Zoë, who was part of the national under-17 side that took part in the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Girls’ under-17 Region 5 championships in Malawi, in December, Phillips also has ambitions to get called up for national duty and possibly play abroad.
Apart from playing a league game in Knysna, she said, this will be her first time playing outside the city and she can hardly wait.
A creative spirit who loves drawing, painting and even chess, she said playing soccer also allows her to express herself.
“As you know, in South Africa, the playing field for female footballers to develop is not very big and it does not get a lot of exposure. If other girls see that there is a future for them in football or sports in general, it would encourage them to start playing,” she said.
“We can promote women’s soccer by broadcasting it on a bigger platform as well as get more sponsors and support from people in our own communities and across the country,” she said.
Long-standing friend and teammate Chanté Delo says Phillips has what it takes to make it to the top.
“She’s very supportive, especially when it comes to achieving short-term goals, on and off the field. What makes her different is her work ethic, her efforts in this sport (soccer), her mindset is phenomenal and she brings a very positive energy on the field, always willing to uplift another player as well as support them when they need to master something during training. She pushes me to play at my full potential especially when we play together, every game we play together is the best game. She’s a very hard working person, literally takes the field as her second home and escapes. Everything is better for Lana when she has a ball at her feet. You can play Lana in any position on the field, I promise you she will give a 100% work rate,” she said.
Burnley head coach, Garrison Wilson agrees, saying: “Lana is one of most dedicated players that I’ve come across. She’s always working extremely hard on training and match days. Giving her 100% to the team.
“Women’s football has grown in Cape Town whereby it is noticed that now almost every LFA has a female team. This was never the case previously,” said Wilson, who has been coaching at Burnley since 2013, following in his father and club founder Gary Wilson’s footsteps.
As things stand, he said, Burnley has three women’s/girls’ teams ranging from under-9 to a senior side playing in the Sasol League which is the second highest women’s soccer league in the country. The club, he said, is affiliated to Bonteheuwel’s Metropolitan LFA.
“Not forgetting that our Development Girls Team has been promoted to the Regional Women’s League (RWL) for the 2024 soccer season,” he said.
“We find that it’s important to actively promote women’s football so that we can try to bridge the gender gap between male and female soccer in Cape Town and in the country as a whole. Burnley Women’s Football Club noticed a need for a female club in Bonteheuwel and took our chance on promoting and developing girls to showcase their talents. Our mission is to change lives through sports. As we believe a child in sports keeps away from drugs and court.”
Carmen Rene Adendorff, who works for a sports marketing agency and is a big supporter of women’s football, played a key role in the pair’s move to Namibia.
Adendorff, a well-known figure in futsal, has worked with the Football Association of Zambia and on a number of international soccer events, including the FIFA World Cup Draw 2022 in Qatar and last years’ Women’s African Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Morocco where national women’s coach Desiree Eliis and Banyana Banyana claimed the continental title.
She said the technical director of the club and one of the Namibian national coaches reached out to her asking for three players because his club wanted to spice up their squad heading into the new Namibia National Women’s League.
“Promoting women’s football is crucial for fostering gender equality, empowering women, and challenging stereotypes,” she said.
“It provides opportunities for women to excel in football, encourages a more inclusive sporting culture, and inspires the next generation of female footballers.”
In welcoming the girls to Windhoek, Hafeni Ndeitunga, Ramblers technical director and head coach, said: “Women’s football in Namibia is in a good place right now. There’s still issues that need to be resolved before we can get to that elite level to compete against the world’s best but we are moving in the right direction.”
“Our decision to bring Lana and Zoë is evident of our intent to elevate the women’s game, through the opportunities we give women and our social media, we always promote a good image, an image that shows professionalism, opportunities and equality.”
“Women’s football,” he said, “has seen a significant increase in participation and interest worldwide, with more countries investing in their national teams and leagues. I would like to urge all major clubs to invest in the development of girls soccer around the world and ensure equal playing ground for the future girl child.”