US-based Thembi Kgatlana has been hungrily devouring as much information as she can in the American National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and she plans to transfer the knowledge she’s gained with the Houston Dash to Banyana Banyana.
Kgatlana‚ who played for the Dash in their unsuccessful bid to reach the NWSL play-offs this season‚ will be one of coach Desiree Ellis’ main attackers in the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana later this month.
A number of Banyana players like Kgatlana‚ Linda Motlhalo‚ Lendra Smeda‚ Refiloe Jane and Rhoda Mulaudzi have been plying their trade overseas and she believes that they bring experience to the national team.
Banyana must finish in the top three in Ghana to qualify to the World Cup‚ to be held in France next year‚ for the first time.
“We bring match fitness to the national team because we train every day and play competitive football week in and week out‚” said the 22-year old Kgatlana.
“This is the one area we are lacking here in South Africa.
“There are many players who are committed but training alone or once a week and training with a professional team is completely different.
“You learn a lot of technical and tactical things and it is something that we bring to this team and hopefully we will help and Banyana Banyana qualify for the World Cup.
“It has been a good experience playing in the US but it was not easy coming from the Sasol League. Everyone in the US is professional and most of the players play for national teams around the world.
“My personal development has been good under coach Vera Pauw at Houston Dash. She (Pauw) knew me very well because she coached me at the national time during her time in South Africa.
Kgatlana was part of the Banyana team that narrowly lost 1-0 to Ivory Coast in the third place play-off in Namibia four years ago and missed out on a place at the last World Cup.
She said she does not want to go through that heartbreaking experience again.
“What happened in 2014 was depressing because we were so close‚ but we have learned from that experience‚” she said.
“Qualifying for the World Cup would be great thing to happen to South African football because if you look at most of Nigerian players‚ about 80% of them play overseas because of the exposure they get by playing at the World Cup.
“We must continue knocking on that door‚ hopefully it will open in Ghana and overseas teams will slowly shift their eye to more South African players.”
“With regard to the Cup of Nations in Ghana‚ we don’t want to count our chickens before the eggs hatch. But it is going to be an interesting tournament with the best eight countries on the continent fighting for the three World Cup spots.”