matlou is one tough cookie
Banyana Banyana's Noko Matlou is not the kind of woman to shy away from a challenge.
Fresh from Lagos, Nigeria where she was crowned Woman Footballer of the Year, a first for any southern African player, Matlou and I are in stitches as we remember the first time she got national team coach Augustine Makalakalane's attention two years ago.
An opposition player had just handed Matlou a kung-fu style kick - studs and all - smack in her face, and those of us watching in the safety of the press box had thought that was the final contribution of the day from Matlou.
We did not reckon on the Limpopo lass' nerves of steel, as she got back up and into the thick of things. From that point on, Makalakalane knew he would leave Matlou out of his squad at his peril.
"I never talk to opposition players when they rough me up. I am very quiet but I believe my determination is by far my biggest strength," Matlou says.
She has paid her dues in spades and no one would dare begrudge her her moment in the sun - such as being congratulated personally by megastars and fellow winners Emmanuel Adebayor and Salomon Kalou last week, as well as past winner Mercy Akide.
These events are a far cry from Matlou's humble beginnings where she fondly remembers her mother Lisbeth whipping her for playing a boy's game.
"My mother was so against my playing football that she chased me out of our home in Ga Phaodi to my grandmother's place in Bochum.
"She really meant business. But I continued to play and told them there was no such as thing as an exclusively male sport in this day and age," Matlou says with a laugh.
Her mother - who is a changed woman these days - has never seen her daughter play, out of a lack of opportunity rather than disapproval.
Having gone through this and more for the love of the beautiful game, it is no wonder Matlou lets no one intimidate her and regards every field on thec ontinent as her turf.
But she could be lost to the continent in a matter of weeks as Banyana manager Fran Hilton-Smith has been working on deals for the in-demand striker. The recent honour could only enhance her chances of nailing a lucrative deal soon.