South African keeper, Wayne Sandilands – “I know it was God’s plan for me”

Ollie Baines caught up with South African keeper, Wayne Sandilands about the life as a footballer and as a Christian.

What was football like growing up in South Africa?

“Growing up playing football in South Africa was good. I started playing from the age of 5-years-old. I played for both my school team and club team. My dad put extra effort in my training and gave me extra sessions which set a good platform for myself and with God’s favour allowing me to excel. The year I finished high school, I signed my first professional contract.”

Who was your footballing idol growing up?

“I didn’t really have an idol but one player I really admired was Steven Gerrard of Liverpool. I loved his work ethic, his determination and never say die attitude, he always stepped up to the plate when he was needed. He truly was a amazing player. He lived a true professional lifestyle and so was a good role model on and off the pitch.”

Why did you choose to be a goalkeeper?

“I was playing for my Under 5’s team and the keeper left the club, so the coach asked who would like to be play in goal. I stuck up my hand for some reason, at the age of 5 it wasn’t a calculated decision….maybe I was lazy, I can’t really remember! All I can say is that I know it was God’s plan for me to be between the sticks.”

Hardest thing about being a keeper?

“The challenge with being a keeper is that we can’t make a mistake, we have to strive for perfection every game so I think the mental side is the hardest. You need to be able to handle immense pressure, to be calm in difficult and strenuous situations, so you need to be fully confident in your ability and not allow errors if they do occur to define you.”

If you weren’t a keeper, what position would you like to play in?

“I would probably lean towards a striker, I would love to score goals, but I also think I would enjoy being a holding midfielder, I have a good work ethic and so breaking up play and distributing the ball would be a nice challenge.”

What’s professional football like in South Africa?

“It’s getting better, more professional and more prestigious. 90% of games are on television so there is good exposure for us as players. The level is also relatively good with good competition amongst teams, so the league is competitive.”

Do you wish you’d be able to play in Europe?

“I think every player dreams about that, but playing in Europe hasn’t really been a huge goal for me, my aim has been to be the best I can be. It would have been nice but it didn’t ever happen and I am OK with that. My goal is to develop every single day and be the best keeper God created me to be.”

How did you become a Christian?

“As far back as I can remember I have had a love for the Lord and what He has done for me, so I knew the Lord from a young age and so it’s been a journey of maturing and growing into the image of Christ. God has sent great people in my life to teach and challenge me and help me mature.”

Do you share your faith with your team-mates?

“Yes we meet together and have a weekly bible study.”

Is it difficult being a Christian in professional football?

“At times it can be, there are temptations, there are a lot of highs and lows, but as a believer the Lord calls us to shine our lights and provides the grace to do so.”

What do you make of Wayne’s comments about his career and faith?

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