Leandra Smeda has joined an elite group of players who have made 100 appearances for their country. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG After notching up her 100th cap for Banyana Banyana over the weekend, Leandra Smeda reflects on her career which began before she hit her teens.

Smeda, 30, was part of the Banyana team which lost 2-0 to host Japan in an international friendly in Kitakyushu on Sunday.

Smeda has joined an elite group of players who have made 100 appearances for their country including Janine van Wyk, Refiloe Jane, Nompulelelo Nyandeni, Noko Matlou, Amanda Dlamini, Mamello Makhabane and Portia Modise.

As a young girl watching her father play football, Smeda became interested in the sport and was inspired to play. She quickly realised how good she was after being selected for the South African School Games, representing Western Cape’s Under-12 girls’ team.

“At age 11 I realised that football is what I truly love and enjoy. Although I participated in other sports, I always gravitated more towards the game of football,” said Smeda.

Growing up in Velddrif, Smeda played in the Sasol League for over eight years with teams such as Ambassadors Ladies, Cape Town Roses and University of Cape Town. She was then scouted and invited to join Banyana Banyana in 2010.

After eight years in the national team, Smeda finally received her first international contract in 2018, earning herself a spot in Luthianian club, Gintra Universitetas. She then moved to Swedish club, Vittsjö GIK, where she is currently based.

Although she’s playing for a well-known international team, Smeda admits that it all started in the Sasol League.

“I think Sasol’s sponsorship has been really good for women’s football in South Africa. Women footballers are receiving more exposure, you can see it by the number of players from both Banyana Banyana and the Sasol League obtaining contracts abroad. I don’t think I would be here today if I did not receive the opportunity to play and show my talent through the Sasol League, so I’m really grateful for that."

It hasn’t been an easy journey to 100 caps as the midfielder recalls some of the challenges that she faced along the way.

“The biggest challenge I faced in my football career was when I was still a student and had to study, work and play football. It was really difficult for me but with my family and friends’ support, I pushed through it all and made sure that I still excel in the sport,” concluded Smeda.

“That is truly what I believe being Limitless is all about; pushing through the challenges and working hard towards your dreams. My advice to upcoming football players is to work hard, believe in themselves and enjoy the game. They should also put the same effort into school and their studies because the two work hand in hand.” 

African News Agency (ANA)