Kgatlana steps up into big time in Spain
Banyana coach lauds move to Atletico Madrid
Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis and her assistant Thinasonke Mbuli have reacted with jubilation to the news of Thembi Kgatlana signing with Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.
Yesterday, Atletico confirmed Kgatlana’s capture. The 25-year-old Banyana star, who was a free agent, penned a two-year deal. Last season, her maiden in Spanish Women’s Primera Division, Kgatlana netted an impressive 10 goals for SD Eibar.
Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, Ellis couldn’t contain her elation at Kgatlana move to Atletico, a far bigger team that Eibar.
“I wish I could jump over the roof the way I am so excited. Maybe I am just dreaming… this is big. I am looking forward to the next stage of Thembi's career. We all saw what she did at Eibar, so there’s no doubt that she deserves this move,’’ said Ellis.
“We have Refiloe Jane at AC Milan and now Thembi at Atletico, who’re one of the top clubs in Spain. Our national team will be the biggest beneficiary. We saw their men’s team won the league last season...before Barcelona won the past two Women’s Primera Division titles, Atletico had won three in a row…so they are a huge football club all round.’’
Atletico women finished fourth in the league last season, missing out on Champions League spot. It is also the first time Atletico finished outside top two since the Spanish women's top league was rebranded as Primera División de la Liga de Fútbol Femenino from 2011/12 season.
Mbuli was equally on cloud nine. The Banyana deputy coach feels no Banyana player deserves this more than Kgatlana.
“Yoo! This is big. For someone who know exactly what she wants, I am not surprised to see Thembi going places. No player deserves it more than Thembi,’’ noted Mbuli.
“I know Atletico is bigger than Eibar but I think Thembi will still impress there because she’s a top-class player. Remember, the goals she scored last season were against these big teams,’’ Mbuli said.
On her new club’s website Kgatlana, the 2018 CAF African Women Footballer of the Year, vowed to be a team player.
“My first goal is to be a team player and to work hard for the team. I am very happy to be able to join you soon, I can't wait to meet you all,’’ Kgatlana said on Atletico’s website.
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