The curious case of Thalea Smidt and why she moved from Mamelodi Sundowns to the University of Pretoria

With her desire to represent Banyana at the World Cup, Thalea Smidt decided to seek greener pastures. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix

With her desire to represent Banyana at the World Cup, Thalea Smidt decided to seek greener pastures. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix

Published May 8, 2023


Johannesburg - With her desire to represent Banyana Banyana at the World Cup, Thalea Smidt decided to seek greener pastures instead of settling for limited game time at Mamelodi Sundowns.

Having cut her teeth in the amateur ranks before moving to the University of the Western Cape, University of Pretoria, Mamelodi Sundowns and back at Tuks, Smidt has had a unique football journey.

It’s been a path that has mostly had highs – having won multiple trophies, including the Super League, Caf Champions League, and Cosafa with Sundowns and Women’s Africa Cup of Nations with Banyana.

In recent months, though, Smidt found herself in a state of confusion at Sundowns as she was playing second fiddle or kicking her heels in the stands – despite recently leading Banyana to that African crown.

This was something that the Capetonian didn’t take well especially with the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where Banyana will be making their second successive appearance, on the horizon.

And that’s why instead of continuing being in and out of Jerry Tshabalala’s team, she decided to return to Tuks – earlier in the year – on loan.

Smidt was speaking at The Venue, Johannesburg, where Banyana's chief sponsors Sasol held a ceremony, reiterating their support to the team ahead of the global showpiece. They also had a promo video of the team's qualification for the World Cup.

“Obviously. As an individual and a sportsperson growing up, who doesn’t want to go to the World Cup? Is there any professional footballer who doesn’t want to go to the World Cup,” Smidt said.

“I had to sit-back and do a lot of retrospection. I think it’s not the only motivator – there are others as well – but it’s one of the main motivators.

“There were even times when I thought I should just let it be. (But then again) I thought I should at least try to make the (final) team for the World Cup.”

And while any player goes through highs and lows in their careers, it stung for Smidt when she didn’t get a prompt response from Tshabalala on why she wasn’t playing regularly anymore.

“I can’t answer that because I don’t know what went wrong,” Smidt said.

“Yeah, obviously you do because you also want to fight (for your spot). I am someone who is always open to improvement. I believe I have so much space for improvement.

“I believe even the best players have that mentality of wanting to get better. I am always open (to it). But in terms of what went wrong, I don’t know.”

With Sundowns being the most successful and professionalised team in the Super League – thanks to their resources – it would appear Smidt made a downgrade by moving to Tuks.

But the 25-year-old midfielder begs to differ, riding on the fact that the university owns a High Performance Centre which makes the team one of the most professionally managed outfits in the league.

“I am at AmaTuks. And if people are not aware, there’s a High Performance Centre there. So, everything is quite professional (there as well). I am in a professional set-up,” Smidt said.

“I was at Tuks before I went to Sundowns. So, I am quite aware of the environment and the set-up. People will have their opinions and say things due to your achievements.

“But at the end of the day, you don’t do things to please people but to please yourself and for your well-being and what you think is the best for you. At the end of the day, it’s about you.”


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