TS Galaxy Ladies football player, Refilwe Biya, draws inspiration from her late father as she aims to assist her team to gain promotion into the Hollywoodbets Super League.
Hailing from a deep rural area of Sikhwahlane in Mpumalanga, Biya grew up playing street football. Over time, her love for the sport intensified as she went on to represent her University of Free State team.
An educator by profession, Biya is inspired by South African female footballers, Refiloe Jane and Thembi Kgatlana, as she sets sight on earning a professional international contract.
Her dream is to play for FC Barcelona Femení as she is a staunch supporter of FCB.
Speaking with Tlamelo Kganakga, Biya shares views on learning from past mistakes and overcoming challenges to fulfil her sporting dreams.
Refilwe, thank you for chatting to us. Please tell us more about yourself.
Firstly, allow me to thank you for this wonderful opportunity. I am Refilwe Biya. A 28-year-old from a very small rural area called Sikhwahlane, which is deep in Nkomazi in the Mpumalanga Province. I am a soccer prayer, playing for TS Galaxy Ladies and I’m also an educator.
When and why did you decide that you wanted to play soccer?
I cannot really recall when I “decided to play” but I grew up loving the sport. I used to play street soccer with the boys around my area, but I never played professionally until I got to the University of the Free State where I was scouted by the university coach while I was playing for my residence.
Tell us about your journey to get into the TS Galaxy Ladies team?
Well, before we were TS galaxy, we were “Nkomazi Ladies”. I started playing for the team in 2016 when I got back home from varsity.
In 2019, our dream of representing our province at the National play-offs came true when we were crowned champions of Mpumalanga. We travelled to Gauteng where all 9 provinces met to challenge for a spot in the national league. Even though things didn’t go our way, it was a great learning experience.
A year after, the manager of TS Galaxy and our coach had some discussions and that’s how we became TS Galaxy Ladies, and it has been great ever since.
What is your biggest setback and what did you learn from it?
I can say my biggest setback was coming back from varsity as just an average player when I had the opportunity to be a great player. I had the best coach there, the facilities and everything I needed to grow as a player, but I took that opportunity for granted. What I have learnt is to grab every opportunity we get to do what we love because it only comes once in a while, and that time wasted can never be regained.
What are the challenges you have faced getting into soccer?
I think the only challenge I faced was at the beginning when my mother didn’t want me to play the sport. She felt it’s taking my attention away from my books but all that changed as soon as she saw how much I love the sport and my results at school proved that I could do both.
What has been the highlights of your career so far?
Playing and scoring goals at the national playoffs in 2019. That was a great learning experience for me and it’s one experience that is still pushing me even in this season to work harder to get my team to the national playoffs and hopefully to the SA’s National women’s league (Hollywoodbets Super League).
Who would you say inspire you to be a better player?
My dad… although he is late. He still pushes me because whenever I play locally, I usually find people who knew him, and they always share stories with me of how great a player he was. That motivates me every time I get on the field. I just want to make him proud!
Who are the sportswomen you admire and why?
I admire people who work hard, people who are passionate about their sports, and those that give their all. So, the likes of Refiloe Jane, Thembi Kgatlana, Mamello Makhabane, Caster Semenya and Khanyisa Chawane are on my list of many other women I look up to in the sports department.
Which team would you say is your biggest opponent and why?
In our Mpumalanga Sasol League stream B, I would say Super Strikers Ladies FC is our biggest opponent because whenever we meet on the field, one is guaranteed a very good, heated, and exciting game. Both teams are rivals on the field and it’s always a great Nkomazi Derby when we play against each other!
What do you think needs to improve looking at women’s football?
I would say sponsorships. I wish a lot of sponsors would come in. Involve themselves in and support women’s football so that it can grow bigger than it is now. Sponsors will attract even other bigger teams to join in and make women’s football exciting. Maybe that will also help in terms of getting more than just one game in the women’s national league broadcasted each week.
What else do you hope to achieve in your career?
My biggest goal right now is just getting into the women’s national league, staying there, and competing with the great teams in that division.
If you could play for any team abroad, which team would it be and why?
If I could play for a team abroad, it would be FC Barcelona Femení because one of my favourites, Asisat Oshoala plays there and I’m just a huge Barcelona fan.
What do you think of gsport and its impact on women’s sports?
gsport is a great initiative for women to grow in their sport. I love gsport because it allows women to use their voices to advocate for their sports. It is also a great platform to inspire the young generations who are looking to pursue any kind of sport there is, they get to learn from their idols.
Lastly, what do you think we as media can do to amplify women’s sports coverage?
I think the media is the biggest platform to amplify women’s sports. So, broadcasting and publishing more games and sports events can help to grow women’s sports in a sense that it can draw people’s attention and enhance their love for sports.
Photo 1 Caption: TS Galaxy Ladies football player, Refilwe Biya, draws inspiration from her late father as she aims to assist her team to gain promotion into the Hollywoodbets Super League. Photo: Supplied