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21 August 2018 | in Football

Former Universiade star turns pro, makes history


History books were re-written on Monday following the announcement that South African women’s football player Refiloe Jane had signed a professional contract with Australian club Canberra United.


Jane in action for the senior national team against Lesotho earlier this year. ©BackpagePix


Jane, together with compatriot and fellow international teammate Rhoda Mulaudzi, put pen to paper with the Westfield W-League outfit, and in so doing, became the first South African women to join an Australian top-flight club. The duo had been on trial with Canberra and after impressing head coach Heather Garriock, the Australians decided to rope in the South African duo ahead of the start of the new season.


“In their short time here in Canberra, ‘Fifi’ [as Jane is nicknamed] and Rhoda have been very impressive,” Garriock said. “It was hard for them to get here, and then to come in to a different environment and play, but they have done very well to adapt and really stood out to me. Fifi’s technical ability in midfield is simply outstanding, and in Rhoda I can see the pace and aggression that I’m looking for up front.”


Jane, a midfielder for the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), is a role-model for many in South Africa, following her rise from the dusty streets of the township of Soweto to international stardom. The 26-year-old has turned out for South Africa at the past three Summer Universiades, captaining her team last year in Taipei 2017 as they reached the semi-finals, before losing to Russia in the bronze medal match.


With over 80 senior international caps to her name, Jane also featured at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, while captaining Banyana Banayana – as the senior South African women’s national football team is known – to victory at last year’s regional COSAFA Cup tournament.


The National Diploma in Sport Management graduate is currently studying towards a Marketing Masters’ student at TUT, where she captained her university team to success at the University Sport South Africa (USSA) nationals and the Varsity Football championships.


Her achievements have made her a local sporting hero, and has this year been nominated for the prestigious Sportswoman of the Year and Sports Personality of the Year awards in her local province of Gauteng in South Africa.


Jane in action for her university team, TUT ladies. ©BackpagePixJane in action for her university team, TUT ladies. ©BackpagePix


Her move to Australia has thus been a long time coming, with the midfielder sharing her excitement ahead of the trans-continental transfer. “I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity at Canberra United,” she said. “I am looking forward to the season and making the most of this chance.” Jane follows in the footsteps of last year’s Universiade teammate Thembi Kgatlana, who earlier this year signed a professional contract with American club Houston Dash, joining only a handful of women South African football players to land a professional contract abroad.


Canberra, two-time winners of the Westfield W-League, will only start their 2018/19 season in late October, giving Jane a bit more time to settle in to her new environment ahead of her much-anticipated debut.