My heart just wants to be with People

Women Soccer News Posted on 2022-10-16 19:48:49

My heart just wants to be with People

 Shilene Booysen is a South African currently managing the South Sudanese female national team. In this Interview, she dives deep into her passion and drive towards the sport, current trends in women football in Africa and how it can be remedied.

It isn’t hard to spot Shilene's contagious affection for football when speaking with her. The manner in which she exhaustively tackles questions thrown at her is perhaps as impressive as the shrill tone with which she speaks. One could easily grasp the level of her technical ability evident in her endlessly immersive responses.  


Shilene's adventure in women's sport has been unsurprisingly outstanding. Starting as a goalkeeper, she has since moved on to become a goalkeeper trainer, analyst, assistant coach and then a head coach - all within the span of one decade. In hindsight, it appears scarcely believable how she’s achieved this, especially when she reminisced about her childhood days, recanting professions she had initially aspired towards.


"I started out wanting to be a teacher, then a doctor, and ended up in engineering". After college, she ventured into engineering, combining playing with working. But, Shilene's dream had always rested on helping and football only, fortunately, provided the means. "My heart just wants to be with people'', she says.


Her foray into ascendancy, a move that is gloriously grand comes against the backdrop of painstaking hard work which also provides an antithesis to the existing order. In 2021, she was appointed South Sudan head coach, becoming one of the minutest percentile to move up the ladder as a female.


Though the success story enticing, it’s undeniably a combination of diligence, passion and a sustained yearning to make an impact. Indeed, Shilene has paid her dues. Having worked in varying capacities in the US, and recently, South Africa - she saw the daunting task of a head coach as the next step in her career. 

       Shilene, seen smiling, with two of her players in a training session

Not only because she desires it but in stark fairness, she’s earned it. Since, working solitarily as the head coach has provided an additional layer of responsibility, opening her eyes into some fairly inadequacies in women's sport and everyday reality in South Sudan. She recounts “Going to South Sudan has opened my eyes to the challenges people have in life. It is a really poor country. ‘I think 80%-90% of people don’t have formal jobs. They sell things on the street. It was a culture shock for me to see what was going on there, but once I got to meet the people, I was lost … I fell in love with them. I still feel like that, I’m still excited and passionate about doing what I can to help as many people as I can’.