CAPE TOWN – Thembi Kgatlana refuses to be snared by the trappings of success. The emerging Banyana Banyana striker is appreciative of what was a break-out season for her in 2017, but she is just as quick to acknowledge that a lot of hard work is ahead. She is determined to remain humble and to focus on the hard work ahead.
The SA national women’s football side takes on Sweden in an international friendly at the Cape Town Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 2pm) and Kgatlana is really looking forward to the challenge of facing up to their more illustrious opponents.
The 22-year-old is from Mohlakeng on the West Rand but plays her football for the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in the Mother City. She is currently a third-year student in BA Tourism. Last year, Kgatlana was the Player of the Tournament when Banyana won the Cosafa Cup competition - and, earlier this month at the annual Caf Awards ceremony, she was among the three nominees for African Women Footballer of the Year.
The gong eventually went to Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala but Kgatlana was chuffed to be among the many stars on show at the awards night.
“It was a nice experience,” she said. “It was good to be among Africa’s best and rubbing shoulders with names like Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Samuel Eto’o. It was really nice to be there.
“It was also good for my confidence and I now have to make sure that I focus on continuing what I achieved in 2017.
“I am determined to be better and making sure that I improve as an individual and contribute towards the team’s success.
“This year we have a busy year with Banyana, but we shouldn’t stop achieving as we have, and we have to continue working hard.”
As for Sweden tomorrow, Kgatlana was confident of a good showing from Banyana.
“Sweden are a good challenge for us,” she said. “We played them twice in the Olympic Games in the past, and they won both games. But that means we have an idea of how they play. More importantly, we have our objectives for the year and to achieve them it’s good to be playing against such higher ranked opponents.
“Having been named as the African Team of the Year, it has brought a confidence into the squad and proved that we can compete against the best. This game is vital in our preparations for the African Women’s Nations Cup and in trying to qualify for the World Cup.”
As one of the younger players in the Banyana squad, Kgatlana said it was important for the squad to regularly be infused with fresh new talent. She believes that, in order for such burgeoning players to make their mark, they needed to be exposed to the atmosphere and culture of the national team.
“I came into the Banyana squad at the age of 18, I’m 22 now, and in that time I’ve had game time and I’ve gained experience. We need to get more young players into the squad so that when others retire there are players who can fill the holes.”