Banyana Banyana stalwart Noko Matlou is proud of her achievements on the African continent and is hoping that her legacy will inspire the next generation of continental footballers.

Matlou is one of the oldest players in the South African national team setup, having played over 10 years and earned more than 150 caps for her country.

In 2008, she became the first South African, male or female, to be crowned CAF African Footballer of the Year award – only two others before her have made the shortlist for the honour; Portia Modise and former Banyana captain Desiree Ellis – after winning the COSAFA Cup in Angola, where she was joint top goal scorer and player of the tournament.

That same year, Banyana Banyana went on to play in the African Women’s Championship where she was again a joint top goal scorer and joint player of the tournament.

The versatile Matlou’s experience and knowledge have played a vital role in guiding South Africa in various continental tournaments and at their first FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019.

She describes the FIFA World Cup appearance as a cherry on top of the cake, despite the team not progressing from the group stages of the biggest event in football.

At 34, Matlou captains the First Touch Academy team in the SAFA National Women’s League, and she is also preparing for life after football. She currently coaches an U17 team in Limpopo and is eager to continue ploughing back into the community to develop future stars.

Matlou regards Caster Semenya and USA’s Megan Rapinoe as her women sporting heroes due to their outspoken characters.

Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Matlou chats about playing her part in uplifting women’s football on the continent and reveals the biggest challenges that she has faced in her career.

Noko, welcome to gsport! Today, 25 May is Africa Day, what has been your biggest highlight of your playing career and getting to play on the continent?

Thank you so much!

Uhm, my biggest highlight of my career is when I won the CAF African Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2008 and going to the FIFA Women’s World Cup was a cherry on top of the cake.

Please tell us more about that moment when you were crowned the CAF African Women’s Footballer of the Year. You were the first South African footballer to achieve this feat!

Ahhh, I still remember that moment is like yesterday! When I remember… That year I did well because we won the COSAFA Cup in Angola and I was the top goal scorer and player of the tournament.

“It meant a lot because I was the first player in South Africa and Southern Africa to win the award!” – Banyana Banyana stalwart, Noko Matlou, speaks on winning the CAF African Women’s Player of the Year Award in 2008.

We went on to play in the African Women’s Championship and I was joint top goal scorer and joint player of the tournament. It meant a lot because I was the first player in South Africa and Southern Africa to win the award!

This then brought more attention from the rest of Africa towards South African women’s football. How do you feel about having played your part in uplifting the game?

I feel very happy because now South Africa is coming up as among the best countries in the world in terms of female football and now the world is recognizing us. Thanks to the association and our main sponsors for taking part in developing women’s football in our country!

How has women’s football evolved locally over the years?

It has really improved a lot because as you can see now, we have many players that are playing overseas.

We have seen the SAFA National Women’s League come into the forefront, the SASOL League that continues to unravel players as well as university football. What do you think of the steps that have been taken to uplift the women’s side of the game?

In terms of the SAFA League, it’s the biggest step and I want to say thanks to the association and other corporates that have come on board and are supporting women’s football for the future.

What other changes are you hoping to see taking place?

I want to see more players and teams from the National Women’s League getting paid and getting more support from the association and corporates.

Let us talk more about your journey, Noko. When and where did your passion for football begin?

My passion for football started when I was still in primary school where I was playing with boys. From there I joined a team in the Vodacom League and since then I have never looked back!

“It was not easy to convince them as they always said that football was a man’s sport, but I was lucky that I had a mother who understood and was supportive.” – Matlou speaks on convincing her family after she decided that she wanted to pursue her football career.

What was your family’s reaction when you decided that football was a career that you wanted to pursue?

Uhm, it was not easy to convince them as they always said that football was a man’s sport, but I was lucky that I had a mother who understood and was supportive.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career so far as a woman in sport?

The biggest challenge was not getting enough support from corporates and exposure. Now things are getting better because we can even watch our national women’s league on television.

Who are your female sporting heroes?

Megan Rapinoe from USA And Caster Semenya because they both stand for what is right and they are very outspoken.

What has been the best advice that you have received that has helped you through your difficult moments?

Believe in yourself and stay strong and most of all respect anyone no matter the person is young or old.

What are you doing to share your knowledge and experience with the next generation?

I’m busy with development and I’m the coach of an U17 team in Limpopo where I am sharing my knowledge and experience. Even in my team (First Touch Academy in the SAFA National Women’s League).

What are you still hoping to achieve in your career and what are your plans for life after football?

I want to finish my career by winning silverware and my plan is to continue to play my role in football and develop other Noko Matlou’s, Refiloe Jane’s, etc.

 

 

Photo 1 Caption: Banyana Banyana stalwart Noko Matlou is proud of her achievements on the African continent and is hoping that her legacy will inspire the next generation of South African footballers. Photo: Noko Matlou (Instagram)
Photo 2 Caption:
Matlou is one of the oldest players in the national team setup, having played for over 10 years and has earned more than 150 caps for the senior national team and captains First Touch Academy team in the SAFA National Women’s League. Photo: Skhu Kompela
Photo 3 Caption:
In 2008, she became the first South African, male or female, to win the CAF African Women’s Footballer of the Year award after winning the COSAFA Cup in Angola where she was joint top goal scorer and player of the tournament. She since gone on to win various COSAFA Cup titles with the national team. Photo: Noko Matlou (Instagram)
Photo 4 Caption:
That same year, the team went on to play in the African Women’s Championship where she was again a joint top goal scorer and joint player of the tournament. Photo: Noko Matlou (Instagram)
Photo 5 Caption:
At 34, she is also preparing for life after football as she currently coaches an U17 team in Limpopo. She is eager to continue ploughing back into the community to develop future stars. Photo: Noko Matlou (Instagram)