Wearing the customary number nine associated with a team’s most prolific goal scorer from the centre forward position,
Mthandi celebrates a scoring strike with her University of Johannesburg teammates
Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade participant Amanda Mthandi put pen to paper last month with her first international professional contract with Club Deportivo Badajoz Femenino in Spain.
Mthandi joins fellow South African female soccer players who have also starred at the World University Games namely Thembi Kgatlana and Refiloe Jane; to practice their craft abroad and had this to say after signing her deal, “I wasn’t really expecting the move to happen so soon, but I am grateful, and it shows that our appearance in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup made the world aware of South Africa and our talent.”
The forward is expected to leave for Spain this month and looks ahead to the rest of the season with her new team when asked her plans she says: “To continue working even harder and not drop the ball. I am really looking forward to playing and learning from the new coach too.”
After having been featured in the coveted FIFA Women’s World Cup last year with Banyana Banyana, Mthandi said, “It was a dream come true. It was amazing, and it’s one of those memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life”. This year she was faced with very different circumstances, due to COVID-19 there has been no women’s football taking place in South Africa. However, Mthandi has kept up training and her spirits during the lockdown with her national teammates.
“It was hard at the beginning, but UJ was sending a weekly training program as well as our national head coach Desiree Ellis. I would also train with Thembi (Kgatlana) via video call. The fact that I was with my friends kept me going because they would join me during training sessions too,” she said.
On the other hand, Mthandi also worked on the technical side of her game saying, “I tried watching a lot of sports documentaries and movies, and that gave me a different perspective of the sport. I also watched some of my training/match footage to try and analyze my game as well as look at some of the mistakes I’ve made in games so that I can improve,” she added.
The 24-year-old who studied Transport Management at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) noted the role the university played in her development as a soccer player.
“UJ played a huge role because, after the 2018 USSA tournament, I got my first senior call even though I didn’t make the team that played in COSAFA that year I learned a lot from the national team’s training camp.
I went back to the drawing board and worked even harder, particularly with the sports scientist (Sereeta Miles) from UJ and attended a lot of gym sessions. I ended up going to AFCON that same year with Banyana Banyana because of it,” said ‘Speedy’ as she is affectionately known as.
Mthandi who now has 17 caps and seven goals for Banyana Banyana, states that her experience at the 2019 Napoli Summer Universiade was fun and unique because of the team spirit in the USSA camp. “The coaches selected younger players so we could get exposure and grow, there was also a lot of encouragement amongst the players and staff,” she recalled.
Last year’s UJ Sportswoman of the Year decided to also take us through her favourite goal that she has scored, which came against Zimbabwe in the 2019 COSAFA tournament. “We lost the ball near the center line, and we started applying pressure on our opponents, and I received the ball, looked up, and the goalkeeper was off her line.. I just went for it. I took a shot, and it went in, it was unbelievable! The goal was nominated as the CAF goal of the year against the likes of Riyad Mahrez who plays for Man City,” said the talented center-forward.
Mthandi also speaks of the biggest lessons she has learned in her career so far: “That hard work really pays off and the fact that I’m only competing against myself not anyone, that way I can be the best version of myself. Criticism will always be there, and it shouldn’t really affect me because there’s good and bad criticism and it helps me grow as a player.”
In the same breath, she gives her word of encouragement to young soccer players hoping to turn professional one day.
“School comes first, and there are opportunities at the varsity level as well to showcase your talent. Always believe in your dreams and work towards them,” she said. “There may be people who are more talented than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you.”