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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.