1 March 2018 – Twenty-five year old Kgaelebane Mohlakoana has always dreamt of playing for the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana, but she never thought it would come so soon.

She was spotted by the national team scouts at the 2017 Sasol League National Playoffs in Nelspruit in December, where she helped  her side Bloemfontein Celtic to retain their trophy.

Pana, as she is commonly known, was called up to the Banyana Banyana camp to prepare for the international friendly match against Sweden in Cape Town in January this year.

She did not get a run, but loved every minute of her time with the South African Senior Women’s National Team.

“As it was my first time, I was very nervous but excited at the same time. I could not believe that I was mixing it up with the likes of Janine van Wyk, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, Refiloe Jane and Nothando Vilakazi – household names in women’s football, players I had always looked up to and dreamt of playing alongside. Even though I did not get to play against Sweden, I was just happy to have been part of the squad, it was a great experience and a dream come true,” said Pana.

“My time here also made me aware that the gap between the international level and the Sasol League is very huge. Being here will help me grow my game and accelerate my growth as a player because I will be surrounded by some of the best players in the country.”

Mohlakoana managed to earn her first cap in the opening match of the 2018 Cyprus Women’s Cup against Slovakia, when she came on for Leandra Smeda in the 64th minute.

The match ended goalless.

“Again I was excited but scared at the same time – I could not believe the coach had called out my name to go in. But I told myself I had to put the fear aside and go on to the field as I had a job to do. It was a tough match, especially for me as I was making my debut, but I was able to settle down after a few touches of the ball. We created a lot of chances but did not convert them,” added Mohlakoana.

“What remains now is to focus on our next game as there is nothing we can do about the one we have played. For the Hungary match, we must continue from where left off, but this time make use of all the chances we get. This is a very good tournament, and we get great experience facing teams that are higher ranked than us because it is not everyday that we take on these countries. I will ensure that I use to the maximum every opportunity I get given to play.

Mohlakoana is also excited that two Banyana Banyana players, Linda Motlhalo and Thembi Kgatlana will be joining a professional club abroad. Both have been signed by Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). They leave immediately after the Cyprus Cup.

“This is clear indication that hard work pays, and if I also put in the hard yards, I might also get such a chance. I am very happy for them, they are going to represent our country in the USA and I hope they continue working hard,” said Mohlakoana.

The Celtic forward was born 25 years ago in the Free State town of Masilo, Theunissen, where she started with her football career with a club called Amagluglug in 2013.

She then moved to Odendaalsrus and joined Kutlwanong Ladies and that is where Celtic spotted her.

Pana is currently three months away from graduating from the Motheo FUT College in Bloemfontein where she is studying Electrical Engineering.

But for now, her focus is on the next Banyana Banyana fixture in the Cyprus Women’s Cup where South Africa will be up against Hungary.

That match is on Friday, 2 March at 18h00 and Mohlakoana will be hoping the performance she gave against Slovakia was enough to have the coaching staff looking in her direction again.