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Woman Footballer Thembi Kgatlana Knows What She Wants From Football By Cheryl Roberts

27 Jun

South Africa’s international woman footballer,Thembi Kgatlana started playing football at age 8 in Mohlakeng on the West Rand.Today, just 21 years old, she’s an international woman footballer for South Africa, a student at University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, and a championship winning footballer. But that’s not all! Thembi Kgatlana is already hosting a community football tournament on the West Rand, sharing her football life with the community that gave her an opportunity to play grassroots football. Thembi Kgatlana knows who she is, values her worth and has her football ambitions nicely mapped out. She knows what she wants and she’s going after it all. This is the Q&A interview I did with one of South Africa’s most talented young women footballers,Thembi Kgatlana.

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Thembi Kgatlana: South African football international

What motivated/inspired you to host a community football tournament?

Where I come from (Mohlakeng,West Rand region) there are plenty of world recognised names when it comes to sports. The likes of Ace Ntsoelengoe, Terra Mathebula (Boxer), Oupa Manyisa, Edward Manqele, Dukuduku Makhanya, Thapelo Morena, but disappointingly we have no soccer tournament or soccer clinics to improve the development and sportsmanship in the region. We have great teams like Mohlakeng four stars and TN Molefe, apart from others which often play tournaments hosted in other regions. I believe hosting this tournament will encourage people of Mohlakeng to take part in sports and continue to produce local and international stars.

What do you hope to achieve from this event?

The tournament is mainly used for encouraging development and it will also be used as a pillar of giving back to the community by giving away sanitary pads, school shoes, and blankets. Anyone can donate those items by contacting us on social media through instagram @kgatlana_tourn and on facebook @Thembi Kgatlana Tournament.

 Do you want to be playing professional women’s football outside of SA?

At the moment playing professional women’s football out of SA is a key priority for me, since we don’t have our own professional league, here in South Africa. So I have definitely considered pursuing my soccer football career outside of South Africa.

 Would you like to be a coach after playing competitive football?

I’m not so sure about me being a coach after my soccer career, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to plough my knowledge of football to the people who will come after me.

What are your football ambitions?

As an international woman footballer, I want to win the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON), and be part of the AWCON dream team, qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and be nominated for FIFA or CAF awards.

Which players do you rate for future Banyana selection? And your most admired women footballer and South African woman coach?

My favourite woman footballer is myself and Assisat Oshoala from Nigeria. Most admired South African woman coach is Sheryl Botes.  I would rate Thalea Smidt and Nelly Mamabolo (my team mates at UWC) for future Banyana selection.

 

Do you want to focus on your career in tourism or as a professional footballer?

If I could focus on them both I would preferably do that. However, I’m left with no choice but to put them according to priority. And at the moment my priority is focusing on being a professional footballer and later focusing on tourism, my future career.

 

How did it all begin for you, your football life? How has it progressed?

I started playing soccer when I was 8 years old, in Mohlakeng with a boys team called Napoli FC, the  same team that Oupa Manyisa played for when he was growing up. While playing for Napoli FC, I was forced to leave soccer by my parents because my mom was an athlete growing up and she wanted me to be an athlete as well, considering that I was very energetic and hyper active growing up. Only at the age of 11 years, I started playing for my primary school team (Mohlakano primary school), along with the  boys; up until they made a girls team when I was 14 years old. While playing for my primary school I joined a team called Parma Ladies FC (from Mohlakeng) which played in the Vodacom league back then and later in the Sasol League. Progressing to high school I played for A.B Phokompe senior secondary school (in Mohlakeng) and then joined a team from Swaneville called Lusaka Ladies FC in the Sasol League, for one season. It was in 2011 when I went to Denmark with Parma Ladies FC to participate in the Dana Cup tournament in Hjòrring. From there afterwards I can easily say that I took my talent very seriously. The very same year I joined the U/17 women’s national team of South Africa. The following year 2012, I went to SAFA’s High Performance Centre for further development, experience and gaining knowledge of football through techniques, tactics and physical strength, under the mentorship of coach Sheryl Botes and Shona Hendricks.  While in HPC I played for Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in the Sasol League and was further groomed to be in the U/20 Women’s National team by Sheryl Botes. When I was doing my matric in 2014 at HPC, I was recognised by Vera Pauw, who by then was the newly appointed coach of South Africa’s senior women’s national team (Banyana Banyana). I was called in for trials and since then I have been part of the Banyana Banyana squad. I am currently playing for University of the Western Cape (UWC Ladies Club) which plays in the Western Cape Sasol League, and are current champions of the 2016 Western Cape Sasol League, champions of USSA 2016, Varsity cup runners-up 2016 and Coke Cup champions 2016.

 

Celebrate 2016 As The Year Of Phenomenal Black Sportswoman Achievement For South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

29 Dec

In reviewing the year I celebrate and emphasise South Africa’s fabulous black sportswomen who claimed global recognition, world triumph and recognition for our country and continent, Africa. I want to center the black woman’s sports prowess and sports achievement in a year of exceptional honour and accomplishment, despite the chains that black sportswomen carry.

This was not only a year of phenomenal sports prowess from South Africa’s sportswomen. It was a year of fabulous sports feats and achievements, especially from elite black sportswomen.

Never before has South Africa, in one year, boasted a black woman Olympic champion, a black woman Paralympic medallist and a black woman world boxing champion. These were the awesome sports feats of Caster Semenya (athletics), Zanele Situ (Paralympic athlete) and Noni Tenge (boxing). Coupled with these world triumphs and accomplishments are those of recognised world class netballer Pumza Maweni.

In a year that saw the spectacular feats of male athlete Wayde van Niekerk and male cricketer Kagiso Rambada, the black woman’s sports achievements are not celebrated as hugely and admirably as befitting the black sportswomen.

The sports achievements of Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni have been written about and broadcasted, but they still don’t dominate the sports headlines in a country where sport profiling is vehemently male-centered, controlled and idolised.

Over the past two decades, I’ve written much about the struggles and hardships of black girls and women in sport in South Africa; how their socio-economic status and black gender and skin impacts on their access to opportunities in sport, from grassroots to elite participation.

In the post-apartheid, democratic South Africa, much more opportunities have been created for black girls and black women to participate in sport. However, most of this participation is not consolidated. Much as the participation avenues are opened up, future development and growth is also blocked, as access to required funding for elite sports preparation is hard to come by and is every black sportswoman’s struggle.

Athletics and netball are the popular sports for black girls and women; this is where they are concentrated. It is these sports that must produce the elite black women sports champions. Undoubtedly, this year was massive achievement for black sportswomen in athletics and netball; especially with 2016 being an Olympic and Paralympic year.

Yet, despite these fantastic world triumphs and recognition, South Africa’s black sportswomen still go unnoticed by those corporate sponsors that associate their companies with sport.

Why has Zanele Situ, Noni Tenge and Pumza Maweni not got corporate sponsorship and funding? Why are these highly achieving, amongst the best in the world black sportswomen, not achieved millionaire status as they deserve from sports earnings like white sportsmen and some black sportsmen? Why has Caster Semenya not being signed up by corporates and businesses after her phenomenal 2016 Olympic achievement and athletics feats?

It’s because they are black sportswomen and black women in sport, and black women are not recognised for their sports prowess and ability but are dissed, ignored and marginalised because they seemingly don’t fit the requirements of largely white owned corporates and advertising!

With 2016 being the year of these outstanding feats and honours, it would be easy to assume that black girls and women are being supported with corporate funding assistance and government backing. This is not so; indeed, the participation paradigm still reveals struggles to go from national level onto international sports domains.

What Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni displayed and continue to do, are their talents and determination to overcome. This could not go unnoticed within sports federations as these women athletes broke the barriers, just with their talent. But what about the talented, yet struggling and battling young black sportswomen, those who are emerging as national youth and junior champions? Is there a secure future for them or will they be lost somewhere in the middle of the sports system?

Black women can achieve in sport, all the way to claiming Olympic and Paralymic gold medals, as Caster Semenya showed in 2016 and Zanele Situ in 2000 at the Sydney Paralympics. However, we want the black woman to be supported in sport, for her existence to be acknowledged and not marginalised.

2016 was a year of awesome sports joy for South Africa and our elite black sportswomen of Semenya, Situ, Tenge and Maweni are right up with their remarkable contribution to sports achievement. It’s because of these fabulous black sportswomen, that my cup ranneth over with black sportswoman joy and pride in 2016. This is my acknowledgement of the fabulous 2016 black sportswoman year.

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South Africa’s phenomenal black sportswomen in 2016: Zanele Situ, Caster Semenya, Noni Tenge