Thembi Kgatlana has been sensational for Banyana Banyana at her club Racing Louisville. If she is not scoring the goals, she’s definitely on the assist list. Most recently she was influential in taking South Africa’s senior national team a step closer to Olympic qualification. Kgatlana scored a brace in the hard fought 2-0 victory against the Democratic Republic of Congo in the second leg of the CAF Women Olympic Qualifiers.
A few months ago, Kgatlana was also instrumental for Banyana at the FIFA Women’s World Cup where coach Desiree Ellis’ side made it as far as the round of 16 in Australia and New Zealand. An unprecedented feat that no South African side has reached, male or female.
With her exceptional outings both for club and country, the Kgatlana brand has seen incredible growth, as a result, she was on CNN’s World Sport with Patrick Snell doing where she spoke about her career thus far and her recent performances. She also addresses the persistent challenges faced by female footballers in the interview.
“Fantastic World Cup for me and my team, South Africa. We went on to the round of 16, but I think most importantly, we enjoyed ourselves, and that’s why I think we could carry ourselves up to that far. But it was amazing and fantastic every single match to step onto the field and to see what we can do to get the best results,”Thembi Kgatlana reflects on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Showpiece
The Highs, and the Lows
Sadly, Thembi’s lost three family members while she was at the World Cup but she still managed to help SA beat Italy in the tournament. Her resilience, determination and love for country was in full exhibition as she continued despite the pain and heartache back at home.
Click CNN World Sport with Patrick Snell interview with Banyana Banyana superstar, Thembi Kgatlana (Outside link: CNN)
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will go down as a historic and ceiling-shattering one for the African continent. Three sides from the continent qualified for the last 16 fixtures: Nigeria, South Africa and Morocco – The first time that 3 African sides would qualify for the knockout stages.
With that success though, we cannot help but highlight the failures of the federations on the continent in supporting female footballers. From the saga that saw Banyana’s bonus fight with SAFA ahead of the soccer showpiece. The Nigerian women’s team have had a countless concerning financial issues with their federation.
One would wonder, is the Confederation of African Football and CAF member federations doing anything to leverage on the progress made at the World Cup. What steps are we taking to ensure that the 10th edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, scheduled for 2027, will witness improved performance by African sides? Can we expect African sides to perform even better, and make the semi-finals, and possibly even compete for the coveted trophy?
“It was a great achievement but personally speaking I think the African Federation has to do more because majority of the girls that are in those countries are playing outside of Africa. We need to professionalize women’s football in Africa!”
Banyana Banyana and Mamelodi Sundowns Women’s FC Striker
“I don’t know how long or how many times we have to talk about it. Women footballers are not getting as much as their male counterparts. It’s very saddening to see that it’s still happening. Majority of the girls do not make a salary. They have to work, they have to go to school. So for us to make the round of 16, just didn’t come with just making history, but the financial gains of getting the money that FIFA promised is going to help a lot of girls to change their lives, to take care of themselves and their families, and to make sure that they have a better life.”
With the possibility of the next women’s football extravaganza coming to South Africa, will Kgatlana’s call for professionalisation of women’s game be a dream finally realised? The conversation frustratingly always comes up but with no real next move or direction.
In fact, speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, for Banyana Banyana and the SPAR Proteas, Minister Zizi Kodwa said it’s an embarrassment the lack of progress that has been made to make football a lucrative career. In the Hollywoodbets Super League, many players still have to work full time jobs to be able meet their monthly responsibilities.
It indicates that while women put in the hard yards to grow their performance on the pitch, however support is still far and wide. As if that’s not enough, there are other factors that disrupt the beautiful game. Spain won the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but that sweet victory was overshadowed by a saga that took centre stage and dimmed the light on the their success. Now former president of the Spanish Football Federation Luis Rubiales planted a kiss on the lips of Spain forward Jenni Hermoso during the medal ceremony – an act she says was not consensual. He claims it was consensual.
That denial and failure to take responsibility by Rubiales prolonged this entire saga, and exposed how badly handled women’s issues are treated. Thus sadly, changing the conversation and narrative of Spain’s triumph.
“For me it’s very disappointing because Spain works so hard to win the World Cup and for them not to enjoy being crowned the champions of the world, it’s sad and disappointing to see that it’s not just equal pay or anything else, but also to show that federations are using their powers to continue to oppress women footballers.
“I can’t even understand what Jenni Hermoso is doing, is going through, you know, and all the other girls in the Spanish National Team, but for me, it’s so embarrassing that I have to go through this. I must commend the Spanish National Team for continuing the fight for their rights, to continue fighting for justice, and to continue fighting for the next generation of Footballers.”
The announcement for who will host the 2027 edition of the Women’s World Cup will be announced in May 2024.
Four bids representing the same number of confederations remain in the race to host the 2027 tournament. They are our very own South African Football Association, The Royal Belgian Football Association, the Royal Netherlands Football Association and the German Football Association (joint expression of interest), The Brazilian Football Association and The US Soccer Federation and the Mexican Football Association who have also expressed an interesting in hosting the tournament together.
As we await the final decision from FIFA and cross our fingers that Africa gets to host the women’s biggest competition, SAFA and African member associations continue to work towards improving the standard of African women’s football, with the hope of seeing more players like Thembi Kgatlana, who won’t have to deal with unsolicited kisses and working 9-5 while trying to pursue a career in football.”
Main Photo Caption: Thembi Kgatlana has been in great form for club and country, and in an interview on CNN’s World Sport with Patrick Snell, the Banyana Banyana superstar highlighted the highs and lows of women’s football, with calls to professionalise the women’s game. Photo: Thembi Kgatlana on Instagram
Photo 2 Caption: Thembi Kgatlana introduces her Rebel Girls book while visiting two primary schools in Mohlakeng, in partnership with Nike and the Thembi Kgatlana Foundation. Photo: The Thembi Kgatlana Foundation on Instagram