16 April 2019 – Banyana Banyana duo Jermaine Seoposenwe and Nothando Vilakazi have signed for Lithuania side Gintra Universitetas for the 2019 league season.
These are the first professional contracts for 25-year old Seoposenwe and 30-year old Vilakazi – they were signed from the Super Palace Falcons and JVW FC respectively.
In a media statement, Gintra University said, “After lengthy negotiations, they have signed the two players who will now be available for selection in the UEFA Champions League.”
Gintra Universitetas is a Lithuanian women’s football club from Šiauliai. It is the team of the local Šiauliai University.
The club plays in the highest Lithuanian league, the A Lyga and has won 13 championships so far. The fourth one in 2005 and every championship since then.
After its championships, the club played in the UEFA Women’s Cup and from 2009 onwards in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Vilakazi and Seoposenwe are already in Lithuania and have started training with their new club. They have been handed jersey numbers – 2 and 10 respectively.
They were expected to play a practice match against a boys’ team this afternoon (Tuesday, 16 April 2019).
Gintra FC is the same team that Banyana Banyana midfielder Leandra Smeda played for before she moved to Sweden.
Smeda had a successful season in Šiauliai, where she became the first South African to score in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
She recommended the two players to FC Gintra.
Before their first training session, the South Africans shared their thoughts with the club on the challenge ahead of the World Cup, the career stages, the desire to debut in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and the strengths of their game.
Jermaine: I started playing football at the age of 12 years. I did this for a few years with boys and that helped me a lot in the next steps. When I joined a girls’ team in South Africa, Santos Ladies, I felt physically strong and self-confident. After finishing primary school, I went to the United States to play for the Samford University team. It was a very valuable experience. I was able to enjoy the game, improve my skills on the football field, and we achieved good results together because we had a really good team. After completing my education, I returned to my home country and joined JVW FC, which competes in the Sasol League.
Nothando: I was very interested in football, and I started playing at age nine. I came to Lithuania from the SASOL League in South Africa, where I was playing for Palace Super Falcons from Tembisa in the last few years. Although the conditions were really good, the league was capable, and the environment was self-reliant, I still wanted to leave the comfort zone and test my strength in a foreign club. I’m glad to have this chance and will try to justify the expectations of the new team.
Jermaine, how did you succeed in a university team in the US? What are the main differences between South Africa and the US football?
Jermaine:It was easy to adapt. I was really fascinated by the professional ethics of the coaching staff, the highest level of medical service and the almost perfect infrastructure. Thanks to the warm welcome I was able to quickly join the team and become an important member of it. It is difficult to name the big differences between the South African Championship and the US University League, because there, too, is dominated by physical contact football, speed, and individual mastery. The university league was very competitive – we were in a difficult group but we had great ambitions to become the best team in the conference, which really motivated us to squeeze to the maximum.
Both of you are well aware that last season Gintra-University was represented by compatriot and national teammate Leandra Smeda, what did she tell you about Lithuania, Siauliai City and football in our country?
Jermaine: Leandra told us a lot of good things about the club. She said the club will always remain her alternative number one where she would still want to come back. She also told us about the weather climate in Lithuania, which is changing dramatically every year – from plus 30 to minus 20 and more.
Nothando: She told me she was very happy to be able to represent a club that is playing in the top European tournament – the UEFA Champions League – and not just to play but also to achieve high results. Leandra also said that Lithuania is a very peaceful country, distinguished by its green nature, and Šiauliai is a city where you can get everything you need. It’s good to know that we’ve come to a professional club that does everything to make the incoming player integrate and feel at home as soon as possible.
What do you know about the prestigious European Football UEFA Champions League?
Jermaine: I started to have a lot of interest in the UEFA Champions League when one of my teammates at Banyana Banyana, Nompumelelo Nyandeni, was playing for Russian club WFC Rossiyinka. I had to watch a few matches after which I started tracking the results of the whole tournament. Not many games are broadcast on South African TV, but when I was able to buy online, I could see a lot more matches. When I found out that Leandra was playing in the UEFA Champions League I didn’t miss any Gintra-University matches in this tournament. Last year, you went beyond the selection barrier and then landed at the Prague SL Slavia team, which went up to the quarterfinals. I also know that one of the best tournament teams FC Barcelona eliminated you in the 2017 finals.
Nothando: I know it’s an elite European tournament with the strongest clubs from different European countries. This tournament is valued not only in Europe, but also worldwide in both men’s and women’s football. I have watched several matches, and last year I also watched the Gintra-University meetings in the Sixth Final, where you failed to fight against Prague’s Sl Slavia. I am eager to make my own debut in the Champions League and contribute to the success of my new team.
You are members of the South African Senior Women’s National Team that will represent your country in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which will start in June. You have been drawn in a very strong group – you will have to fight with the Spaniards, the Germans and the Chinese. What are the goals for your country?
Jermaine: I will start by saying that is a great honor and responsibility to represent my country. In the World Cup, we will represent not only our country but also the whole continent of Africa – it’s a special moment. Such events are, perhaps, the biggest motivation to achieve the goals set for each young girl in her career. I watched and supported our former Banyana Banyana players and I also learned a lot from them. I am proud of them and now I have to show the same example to the young generation myself.
Yes, our group is really complicated. But our goal is to become a World Cup discovery that will pleasantly surprise all football fans. We can only achieve good results by fighting with wholeheartedly. Perhaps it may seem to someone that a good result for us is to get at least a point, but we have bigger goals – we want to get out of the group.
Nothando: First of all I’ll agree with Jermaine when she says we are not just defending the honour of our country, but also representing our whole continent. Playing in the World Cup is most certainly the dream of every player, so we will have to enjoy every moment and, of course, give all the effort to achieve the best possible result. The contestants are strong, but we are not intimidated and we will go to the field to fight for victory.
What are the strengths of your game?
Jermaine: I’m a right-footed player, but I don’t have problems playing on the left. I can safely say I can play on either side of the field. I can also do well in attacking, which is where I am mostly used. Versatility and the ability to adapt to the coach’s tactical plans are the greatest advantages of my role as a player.
Nothando: Because I have a strong left foot, I am a somewhat exclusive player (smiling). I can easily play at both left back and left wing. I am a mobile player, adapting to a variety of game styles and giving all my energy on the field.
Both footballers will not waste any time getting into action in Lithuania – they will make their debut in the yellow and black jersey on Saturday, 20 April 2019 at the first Baltic League match of the season at home with Riga Football School.
We invite all football fans at 17h30 to come to Gytariai Artificial Cover Stadium and support Gintra-University.
(source: FC Gintra)