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28 February 2018 | in NUSF News, Summer Universiade, Football

South African Universiade football star lands lucrative professional contract in USA

South African women’s football team star Thembi Kgatlana continues the upward trajectory in her blossoming career after signing a professional contract with the Houston Dash in America’s National Women’s Soccer League.

 

Kgatlana, 21, has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years, culminating in a lucrative deal with Dash, having put pen to paper on a one-year deal.

 

“I am super excited about my move to Dash,” the talented forward says. “This move means a lot to me because I had to be patient for the past two years. I didn’t rush into taking a scholarship deal overseas as it has always been my dream to play professional football overseas.”

The South African football star in action during the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade. With her play in Taipei, the 21 year old striker affirmed her place amongst football's international elite. 

Kgatlana already has a number of accolades to her name including being as one of the three nominees for the 2017 African Women’s Footballer of the Year, an accolade she narrowly lost out to Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala.

 

Her nomination came on the back of a largely successful 2017, where she was named the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Player of the Tournament after leading the South African national women’s team, Banyana Banyana, to a record fourth Cosafa Cup crown, while also being named Top Goal Scorer and Player of the Tournament in the country’s national club championships, where she helped her club and university side, University of the Western Cape (UWC) Ladies to a runners-up finish. Ms. Kgatlana finished up last season by being named 2017 UWC Sportswoman of the Year.

 

The in-form striker also scored two goals for the women’s national university team that participated in the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei, where they lost out in the semi-finals to eventually end in fourth place.

 Kgatlana speaks with reporters following the match against Great Britain at the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade

After securing her move to Houston Dash, Kgatlana revealed that she will for the second time put her studies on hold, owing to her football commitments. Currently studying a Bachelor of Arts in Tourism at UWC, Kgatlana put her studies on ice in 2016 after being named in South Africa’s national women’s team that participated in the Rio Olympics, where the team was knocked out in the group stages.

 

Due to finish her course this year, Kgatlana has once again postponed her studies to pursue her dream of becoming a professional footballer abroad.

 

In Houston, Kgatlana will re-unite with her former national team head coach Vera Pauw, who is the current head coach of the American club, while also joining Banyana Banyana teammates Linda Motlhalo and Janine van Wyk in the land of stars and stripes.

 

Kgatlana hopes the strides made by her and her compatriots to move to the USA will inspire others in her country to follow suit. “We must see this mission as being that of ambassadors, because if we do well, this will open doors for many more players from South Africa, and in turn this will make Banyana Banyana and all the other national teams stronger,” she said.

 

Since making her debut as an 18-year-old in July 2014 with the South African national team, Kgatlana has already made 30 appearances for her national team, with eight goals to her name.

 

She is currently on national team duty as Banyana Banyana are in Europe for the annual Cyprus Cup, which is set to end on 7 March, following which Kgatlana will jet off to America.