Thalea Smidt: “The World Cup is Every Soccer Player’s Dream, Including Mine”

South African footballer Thalea Smidt boasts impressive accolades under her belt, including the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations medal. Now, she is setting sights on featuring at a FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament.

In April, Smidt returned to University of Pretoria (TUKS) on loan from Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies for the remainder of the 2023 Hollywoodbets Super League season.

Mamelodi Sundowns Midfielder Thalea Smidt Returns to TUKS on Loan

 

During her tenure at Sundowns Ladies, Smidt has bagged the following achievements: 2020/2021 Hollywoodbets Super League Team of the Year, 2020/2021 Hollywoodbets Super League Champions, 2021/22 CAF Women’s Champions League Champions, COSAFA CAF Women Champions League Qualifiers: Player of the Match accolade against Manzini Wanderers.

With the backing of PUMA, Smidt is looking forward to the future as she looks to continue ticking the boxes on her list.

 

Thalea, you have experienced lots of significant victories, what are your favourites and why?

WAFCON 2022 and CAF Champions League 2021. I was part of both teams, Banyana Banyana and Sundowns, to be the first to lift these trophies. Banyana had narrowly missed out a few times, most recently losing in the finals on penalties to Nigeria in 2018. So being part of the first team to bring the cup back to South African soil is a dream lived that I could never had imagined. Winning the inaugural CAF Champions League in Egypt, gives one that sense of history making, that you will always be remembered. Making the victory ever so sweet.

 

Can you share the secrets to that WAFCON win?

It was a team with no discrimination, where each player gave and received love from the next. A united team where each individual stood beside the next player, knowing that whenever given a chance we will leave our all out on the field. Most importantly, the team focused on discipline, hard work, dedication and overcoming obstacles. We were faced with many challenges in Morocco, however sheer determination, bravery and confidence led the team to victory.

 

What do you love about your playing position?

I love everything about being a central midfielder, especially that you are considered the ‘engine’ of a team. Many things do not function without an engine, so this emphasizes the importance of the central midfielder. Some of the attributes for being a central midfielder are constant awareness; passing ability, both long and short; being able to find space; having endurance; being both creative and defensively sound. I feel I was designed for the position, so it brings out the best in me.

 

Which parts of your game have improved the most over the past seasons?

My awareness! Since I have been playing in the CDM position I have also kept my game much simpler than before when I was playing as a 10 or 8, effectively so.

 

What attracted you to partner with PUMA?

I think the answer is quite simple. The brand values resonate with me as I find being brave, confident, determined, and joyful essential elements in my development and growth holistically and not only as a footballer.

 

What boots do you wear?

The PUMA ULTRA Brilliance Pack with women’s specific fit. They work for me because they are super light and this helps me to be quicker, swifter and sharper on the field. I am not someone who is fan of heavy boots, so the lighter the better.

 

Favourite sneakers?

The PUMA Slipstream design as they are very comfortable. Also, the PUMA Kosmo Rider Pop which are both sporty and work for streetwear, so one is not restricted with when and with what to wear them.

 

Tell us about your degree and post graduate studies? So, I have a BSc Biotechnology degree and a BSc Honours Plant Sciences – Plant Pathology degree. With my honours I focused on food safety. This was during the listeriosis outbreak, so I was doing my own research to test for disease causing microorganisms in different food types such as poultry, fresh produce and cold pressed meats. I also have two post graduate diplomas one in Digital Innovation and one in Entrepreneurship. I also have a start-up company focused on Agri-tech. After football, I would preferably work in a lab where food is being tested, but not work 9-5. LOL!

 

How did you balance studies and football?

I had to make time management one of my main practices and prioritize my studies before my football, because I was a student before being a soccer player. Discipline, dedication and hard work – these are some the traits that helped me balance my football and studies.

 

How important is being a positive role models for girls?

It is important for girls to have someone to show them the way, and I take this seriously. I would love my values and actions to inspire the next generation and give hope to the hopeless; to be someone young girls wish to emulate. I also want to help young girls feel like they belong, especially in a sport seen to be male dominated. They need to be inspired when looking, hearing, or seeing me.

 

Is women’s empowerment something you would like to pursue after football?

Yes, I would love to focus more on women in male dominated areas such as football and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Furthermore, I would love to focus on Gender equality and women in leadership.

 

Your advice to girls?

Try to accept yourself and be kind to yourself. It’s the most important and perhaps the toughest thing to do. Practice looking after your needs and refrain from putting your wellbeing at risk to please others. Continue loving yourself even when someone treats you poorly, bullies you, or shows you disrespect. No matter who you are or where you come from, have confidence in yourself and follow your path. Rise above your circumstances – never let them define where you can or want to end up.

 

Where do you draw strength?

I am a very spiritual person, so when I seem to be at a crossroads, I always turn to God because I understand not by my own will but by His will.

 

What motivates you to put in the hours of hard work?

Things that keep me hungry for success are making myself and my family proud. Wanting to give back and to be remembered. To leave a mark everywhere I touch or pass. My desire to win and to realise my goals.

 

There is a World Cup later this year which must be a massive incentive?

The World Cup is every soccer player’s dream, including mine. I would love to play at a World Cup and believe that if it’s meant for me it will come to pass. For now, I can only control the variable in my power, continue to work hard, stay disciplined and determined. The rest is up to God.

 

With editing by gsport

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