Thembi Kgatlana joins exodus to Europe by SA women

SA women's soccer star Thembi Kgatlana has signed a deal with Benfica of Portugal for her first move to Europe after stints in the US and China. / Sydney Mahlangu
SA women's soccer star Thembi Kgatlana has signed a deal with Benfica of Portugal for her first move to Europe after stints in the US and China. / Sydney Mahlangu

At the rate SA women's football is exporting players to Europe, this year promises to be a prosperous one for Banyana Banyana.

On Monday, Portuguese Liga BPI giants SL Benfica announced the capture of 23-year-old Banyana ace Thembi Kgatlana for the remainder of the current campaign.

Kgatlana's switch to Benfica came just two weeks after another Banyana midfield sensation Linda Motlhalo, 21, joined Swedish top-flight club Djurgarden on a two-year deal.

Last week striker Kelso Peskin, 23, became the first SA female player to join a French club when she linked-up with Toulouse from Western Cape side Vasco Da Gama.

Kgatlana, who won the CAF Women's Player of the Year gong in 2018, and Motlhalo, went overseas as free-agents after simultaneously leaving Chinese Women's Super League side Beijing BG Phoenix late last year.

Banyana coach Desiree Ellis strongly believes Banyana will profit a great deal from such transfers. She foresees SA matching the continent's powerhouses such as Nigeria and Cameroon.

"We played Cameroon and Nigeria in 2016, 90% of their players at that time were playing abroad and we struggled to match that.

"But now that we are also exporting more players, I think we will do well and compete with them," said Ellis yesterday.

"Even at the last Afcon [in 2018 in Cameroon], we couldn't really go pound for pound with players who are based overseas. The experience of playing in Europe isn't something you can buy, I am very happy for our players because the country will benefit.''

Ellis continued: "Thembi and Linda have been playing overseas for a while now, but it will be their first time in Europe. Thy have a chance to play [Uefa Women's] Champions League. great opportunities lying ahead."

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