Banyana Banyana international player Refiloe Jane has wormed her way into the hearts of the AC Milan faithful and has also played a vital part in her team since joining the club in September 2019.
In an interview with Radio Rossonera, the Italian side get to know more about “Fifi”, as the midfielder is affectionately known among her peers, as she opens up about her love for football and why she chose to sign for Milan.
For the benefit of the listeners who do not know you, please share a bit of your background.
I come from Kliptown, South Africa. We are a family of six.
At what age did you start playing football, and what attracted you to the sport?
I started playing when I was six years old. I fell in love with football thanks to my brothers.
Did you have an idol growing up, a particular player you looked up to?
Growing up I didn’t have any idol or anyone I looked up to. I followed my brothers. I wasn’t into following anyone, I just wanted to play.
You are the first South African player to feature in the women’s Serie A. What does that mean for you to represent your country in Serie A for the first time?
It’s an honour and a privilege. It could have been anyone, but I was blessed enough to be chosen as the first. It comes with a lot of responsibility. I have to do well so it opens the doors for other women footballers in our country. Play well and showcase my talent so people from Milan and other parts of the world can see we have talent in South Africa. There are many other players that can play and just need an opportunity.
Women’s football has enjoyed tremendous growth and popularity over the past few years. More and more women are playing it and it is starting to become more mainstream. Your thoughts on the state of women’s football today compared to when you started?
Women’s football is growing, and big steps have been taken. Back then when I was playing, we did not have the support that we have right now. Now the media is following women’s football, we got corporate sponsors sponsoring teams and athletes. There are many jobs you can now get in football it is not only limited to the field of play.
You signed with Milan at the beginning of September. Why did you choose Milan?
Before coming to Milan, I was in Australia playing for Canberra United. When my contract ended in Australia we could have easily signed with any other team in Europe. We took our time with my agent and we wanted a team suitable for me. The opportunity came up to play in Italy with Milan.
It is your first time playing in Europe. How has it been adapting to life in Italy, the food, the language, the culture?
It has been a dream come true. AC Milan is a big club with a rich history. When someone mentions AC Milan back in South Africa, we think of the greatest players that ever came out of Milan. To be playing now for this club means a lot to me. So far everything has been going really well. The food is not that different from what I am used to. The real challenge I have is learning the language. I have been learning words used on the field: sinistra, destra, sola etc. Football is not difficult to understand you can also communicate with your hands.
Are you superstitious, do you have a pre-game ritual/routine you follow, example pre-game meal, how you tie your shoes, etc?
I wouldn’t necessarily say this is superstitious, I want to eat pasta before the match. Also, before going in the tunnel I want to give myself a bit of time for a moment of prayer just to pray about the game. Before stepping on the field, I like to look up, kiss my hand and put it on my chest. I come from a praying family and I believe so much in prayer, I am a religious person. Prayer plays an important role in my life.
Looking at the season so far, Milan is 2-0 tied for first. The goal is to make the Champions League. Your thoughts on Milan’s start so far and your confidence in reaching the objective?
So far, we have started well as a team. Everyone is working hard to achieve those goals. Last year we missed the Champions League by one point. We are hoping to win the title. We are focusing on the task at hand, taking it one game at a time.
You play as a midfielder and you have chosen #15, your favourite number. Any particular meaning associated with that number?
All my life I have been playing with number 15. It feels close to home and it feels like I am carrying my family with me.
Rapid Fire Questions:
- What is your favourite city? Cape Town
- Favourite movie? I like anything with Johnny English (Mr. Bean)
- Something you have to have in your fridge at all times? Water
- Something you’ve always wanted to try but too scared to do it? Sky diving
- What is your karaoke song? Major – Why I love you
Now About Your Teammates:
- Who talks the loudest in the locker room? No one necessarily we play music
- Who is the most serious? Marta Carissimi
- Who is the best dressed? Deborah Rinaldi
- Who needs fashion advice? (Laughs… no one)
- Who is the funniest? Monica Mendes
Photo 1 Caption: South Africa’s Refiloe Jane has taken Italian football by storm turning out for AC Milan after signing for the club in early September 2019. Photo: @acmilan on Twitter
With editing by gsport