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Banyana star Thembi Kgatlana jets off to US club as she nears injury recovery

Sazi Hadebe Sports reporter
Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa during the 2022 Womens Africa Cup of Nations match between South Africa and Burundi at Stade Prince Moulay Al Hassan, Rabat on 07 July 2022 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa during the 2022 Womens Africa Cup of Nations match between South Africa and Burundi at Stade Prince Moulay Al Hassan, Rabat on 07 July 2022 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis will heave a sigh of relief that star striker Thembi Kgatlana is off to join new US club Racing Louisville as she's almost recovered from the nasty injury she suffered at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (Wafcon) last year.

Kgatlana was in the Banyana team that lifted its maiden Wafcon trophy by beating hosts Morocco in the final in July but was forced to withdraw from the tournament after rupturing her Achilles tendon in South Africa's last group match against Botswana.

At the time it was reported Kgatlana might be out for a year, which might have seen her miss representing Banyana in the 2023 Women's Fifa World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in July and August.

South Africa face Sweden, Argentina and Italy in their second appearance at the global showpiece after participating in the 2019 World Cup in France, where Kgatlana scored Banyana's only goal.  

The South African Football Association (Safa) announced on Thursday that Kgatlana will leave for the US this week.

“I can’t wait to meet my new teammates in Kentucky but I am still going through rehabilitation from the Achilles tendon injury. I am close to full healing and at the moment am running and trying to get to full fitness,” the striker, who signed a two-year contract with Racing Louisville, told the Safa website.

Louisville compete in the US's National Women's Soccer League, widely regarded as the strongest league in women's football.

Kgatlana praised her new club for being patient with her throughout the period she was injured. ‘’The club has been helpful and for that I want to applaud them.”

The 26-year-old Banyana player has had a glittering career abroad already playing for clubs like Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, Eibar in Spain, Benfica in Portugal, Beijing in China and Houston Dash in the US.

South Africa open their account at the World Cup against the top-ranked Sweden at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand on July 24.

Safa announced last week that Fifa has given them R16m towards Banyana's preparations for the World Cup. 


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