21 April 2018– Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana midfielder, Thembi Kgatlana, is relieved that she has made her long-awaited debut for her new club, Houston Dash in the United States of America.
Kgatlana was in the starting line-up when they came up against Chicago Red Stars on Wednesday, 18 April 2018.
She was however on the losing end as they went down 3-0.
“The game was tough, and the intensity extremely high. The girls are very experienced here and work extremely hard, but it was a worthwhile outing,” said Kgatlana from Orlando, where they will be play their second match on the road.
“It is just unfortunate that we lost our match, but I am glad I managed to get a run so as to get my long-awaited debut out of the way. Despite the result, I really enjoyed myself and it felt very different from playing at home.”
The Randfontein-born forward missed two matches, as she had to return to South Africa to sort out her work permit.
“It was a bit of a disappointment that I was part of the pre-season training camp but unfortunately my documents were not ready so I had to go back home and take care of them. I did not wait too long but it seemed like a lifetime because I was itching to play. That is now water under the bridge and I am here, having the time of my life and living my dream,” added Kgatlana.
“Football here is a lot different here from back at home. The players are direct and don’t give you time to think on the ball – you are constantly under pressure. I believe this is a good challenge for us, and we have to adjust quickly to the style of play here in US. But we are looking forward to our first season as professional footballers.”
Pikinini, as she is commonly known, joins her Banyana Banyana captain at Houston Dash, Janine van Wyk, along with new signee, South African forward Linda Motlhalo. All three were in the starting line-up against Chicago Red Stars.
Kgatlana says they have been well received by the club.
“Things are going well. We had a warm welcome from everyone (players and staff). The set up is very professional. There is time to work and time to rest. We are staying in an apartment and every house has rules, which we have to follow. We are adjusting quite well with Linda as Janine is used to most of the things here because this is her second year here,” says Kgatlana.
They are working under the watchful eye of former head coach of the South African Senior Women’s National Team, Vera Pauw.
“Meeting coach Vera again is very delightful – we already know how she works and how she wants things to be done so that is a plus on our side. The majority of the players are new to the team so we are all getting used to each other, and learning from the older ones.
In their third match of the season, Houston Dash will take on Orlando Pride on Sunday, 22 April at 23h00 local time in Orlando, Florida in the USA (SA Time – Monday, 23 April 2018, 06h00), and Kgatlana will a change of fortunes for the club.
“We have played three games so far, we drew the first two and lost the third one, so we can’t wait for our first win of the season. We need to get that win under our belts because you win once and it becomes a habit,” said Kgatlana.
“It would be great if I get on the score sheet, but I won’t put myself under pressure and will take it as it comes. The important thing is for the team to do well, and if I score in the process then that is awesome.”
Things have been going very well recently for Kgatlana.
- Chosen as the Most Valuable Player in the 2018 Cyprus Women’s Cup held earlier this year
- Nominated for the 2017 CAF Women’s Player of the Year
- Part of the Banyana Banyana squad that lifted the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship held in Zimbabwe, leading to South Africa scooping the 2017 CAF Africa Women’s Team of the Year award
- Selected Player of the Tournament at the 2017 COSAFA Women’s Championship; 2017 Player of the Year at the SAFA Cape Town Awards and 2017 Sports Person of the Year at the University of Western Cape
The former University of the Western Cape student also represented South Africa at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.