Banyana star scores first goal as a professional in the USA

manda Ilestedt of Sweden and Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa during the International Women's Friendly match between South Africa and Sweden at Cape Town Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
manda Ilestedt of Sweden and Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa during the International Women's Friendly match between South Africa and Sweden at Cape Town Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

Banyana Banyana star Thembi Kgatlana scored her first goal as a professional player when she helped National Women’s Soccer League side Houston Dash to a 3-1 victory over Orlando Pride.

The pacey Kgatlana is in her first season in Houston and despite being used mostly off the bench‚ has been a top performer with a number of assists and now her maiden goal.

She came off the bench again and with Dash‚ who are coached by former Banyana tactician Vera Pauw‚ leading 2-1‚ showed her acceleration to race away from the Pride defence and provide a cool finish.

Banyana skipper Janine van Wyk and midfielder Linda Motlhalo both started the game for Dash as they continue their fine seasons.

“It’s a dream I have been working towards for the whole of my life‚ since I started playing as an eight year old‚” Kgatlana told SoweatnLIVE of her move to Dash.

“Working my way through the junior national teams‚ then to the senior national team. It has been a long and a hard road‚ but I am here now.

“I had to drop out of school in my final year to get that opportunity to wear a professional jersey and to be in the fold to win a contract with a big club.

"I hope that it motivates a lot of girls back home to show that anything is possible and dreams do come true.”

Kgatlana had visa issues that delayed her move to the United States earlier this year‚ but said she was always confident that with game-time she would adapt to the league.

“It is all about learning and adapting quickly. In life you face challenges and it is up to you what you do with those. In South Africa there is no professional league and it is easier to become star there‚” she said.

“Here you really have to work hard‚ everyone is professional and most have been playing at this level for quite a while.

"They have the experience and it is going to take time for me to be able to adapt in the league and be able to play my own game. I’m up for the challenge.”

The victory moved Dash to within five points of the play-off places with a game in hand. They have eight games remaining in their regular season.

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