23 April 2019 – Banyana Banyana defender Nothando Vilakazi got off to a winning start at her new club Gintra Universitetas FC in Lithuania when they beat Rigas FC of Latvia 5-1 in the first Baltic League match of the season.

The clash took place at the weekend (Saturday, 20 April 2019).

Vilakazi played for 75 minutes, while compatriot Jermaine Seoposenwe didn’t get a run as she is nursing a minor injury.

“It was a very lovely debut, I really enjoyed myself – just a pity that I could not share the field with Jermaine because of her injury. But I know she will soon be back on the field and do what she does best,” said the player known to her South African teammates as Vivo.

“The 75 minutes I played was not difficult at all – I was just in a happy space and it made things very easy for me to perform. I am also glad my new teammates welcomed me warmly as they even allowed me to take all the corners – left and right – as well as free kicks, and for me that was just awesome.”

She has played for Super Palace Falcons in the Sasol League over the last few years, now she had to use a different system at her new club.

“The main difference is that they play attacking football the 90 minutes without stopping, which requires full fitness and total concentration. They are fearless and always play to score, and as soon as we lose the ball the closest person must press so we can retrieve the ball and launch another attack,” added Vilakazi.

“I must admit though that I did not find that kind of play very difficult because these are all the tactics I learnt from Vera (Pauw), so I easily adapted to the style of play.”

Off the field, however, Vivo says it was a bit of a struggle to adapt. This is the first time she has played abroad, but with the help of Seoposenwe, who spent years playing College football in the USA, she is coping very well.

“The first day I got here I wasn’t coping at all. I had a blocked nose and couldn’t sleep at night. I even had to go and see a doctor, and I was told that such things happen because of the change of environment,” said Vilakazi.

“But now I am very fine and I am feeling very good. Actually, I am enjoying myself and now sleep very well. I must also say that with Jermaine being here, it has helped a lot – I can safely say we have each other, and that counts a lot when coming to a foreign country. The only challenge is the language, it can be a bit frustrating but we have someone translating for us and that helps a lot.”

The South African duo recently signed their first professional contracts with the European side for the 2019 League season.

“To be honest, I was expecting something like this and I am glad it has happened and now I can focus on my career. I think it is a case of never giving up on your dreams and that is the message I want to pass on to some up and coming players, or even those who still harbour hopes of playing overseas – don’t give up, dreams do come true,” added Vilakazi.

“The move came at the right time before we go our first Women’s World Cup, and this will help grow our game a lot. Hopefully, but the time we get to the tournament we will be much better players because of the experience we will have gained here. And also, we will be able to share a lot with our teammates in the national team as to how to approach certain situations.”

Vilakazi and Seoposenwe have been handed jersey numbers 2 and 10 respectively.

The duo has been named in the Banyana Banyana squad to face world champions USA in an international friendly match on Sunday, 12 May at the Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

They will meet up with the national team in the USA.