Proud homecoming for star SA player

Banyana Banyana star Thembi Kgatlana was welcomed by students at UWC where she hosted a soccer clinic last week. Pictured with her are some school pupils who also attended the clinic.

picture: lonwabo marele

She shared some of the excitement of preparing for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, to be held in France in June and July, when she held a soccer clinic for students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) last week.

Kgatlana, 22, was a BA student at UWC but signed a professional contract with American team Houston Dash in the US National Women’s League last year.

Speaking about her footballing journey, Kgatlana described being a part of the team that made it to the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) final against Mali in November last year as sensational.

She feels overwhelmed about the upcoming world cup and said she can’t wait to share the excitement with family and friends.

The footballer, who is originally from Mohlakeng in Gauteng, was last year named CAF Women’s Footballer of the Year and also walked away with the CAF Goal of The Year award.

Director of sport at UWC Mandla Gagayi said Kgatlana is a good example for UWC students and should remain humble.

He wished her well with Houston Dash and said by hosting the soccer coaching clinic at the university she showed she has courage and humility.

Kgatlana said she was only 18 when she made her debut for Banyana Banyana.

“I’ve played in two AWCONS before this one.

“It’s been almost four to five years in the team and it has been a great journey and I’m looking forward to the world cup.”

She said she wasn’t sure what was better – receiving the CAF Women’s Footballer of the Year award from Didier Drogba or being welcomed by the students to share the experience.

“I think I’m still overwhelmed. It has been a great journey and I love and appreciate it.”

Kgatlana said it has been tough moving to Houston and playing in a professional league but it is great learning new things.

Kgatlana hosted a soccer clinic before addressing the welcoming crowd at UWC.

“The soccer clinic was to be a motivation to the young girls. To show them that anything is possible.

“Four years ago no one knew me and no one knew where I was going to go and it could be the same with any one of them so the soccer clinic was to make sure they continue playing.

“My motto is passion is power, so if you are passionate about anything, not just in sports, in your work, you will be powerful,” says Kgatlana.

Gagayi said it was a good for the university to honor its athletes both on and off the field.

“That is why we have been able to achieve what we have achieved to date. We are no longer just a university for academics. We understand some people have other talents outside of academics.

“When it comes to women’s sport in SA, it needs support, so we need to occupy that space and make sure that we develop an agenda for women’s sport in SA.

“We have made a serious commitment in women’s football to say whatever Banyana Banyana does we must make sure that UWC produces more and more players to make sure that team succeeds,” says Gagayi.

Alumni manager Niven Maree says Kgatlana is exemplary because of what she means to UWC, but more importantly because of how she conducts herself as a sports person on and off the field. He said Kgatlana and other athletes like national cricketer Zubayr Hamza were making UWC apealing to future students.