Striker Thembi aims to guide Basetsana to U20 World Cup | SASCOC - SASCOC

Striker Thembi aims to guide Basetsana to U20 World Cup

Basetsana have vowed to fight to the very end in Sunday’s second leg of the third and final round of the Under-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Papua New Guinea 2016 qualifier against Nigeria.
The two nations clash at the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa in a do-or-die affair. Kick-off is at 3pm and entry is free.
Nigeria have a 2-1 lead from the first leg played in Abuja two weeks ago.
Basetsana forward Thembi Kgatlane will have a key part to play in overturning the 2-1deficit and SAFA media spoke to her on the eve of the match.

It’s the big one against Nigeria on Sunday, how do you see it?
Thembi Kgatlana: Like you say it’s the big one, and a lot of people are expecting big things from us and you know it’s not possible to take on a big hurdle without being ready for it. We have played Nigeria before and we know what to expect, but as a team we need to focus on our game and know what we capable of.

How confident is the team ahead of Sunday?
TK: I missed the first leg when we went to Nigeria and came back with a loss, but the good thing is that we scored a crucial away goal. Now we need to be disciplined and focused to reverse the result. We have been working hard and this is what we really want. For us to qualify we have to work 95 minutes and give 200 percent on the day.

How important is this match for Basetsana?
TK: We are on the verge of making history, we have a chance of helping this team qualify for the u20 Women’s World Cup for the first time ever. This could help see some changes in women’s football, and a lot of people could perhaps start investing in the sport. Maybe players could get contracts overseas as well. We have set ourselves a goal – this is what we want as a team, and I believe we will get that result.

How important is this match Thembi?
TK: Before Thembi comes the team. I need to first help the team qualify and I believe I will benefit in the process. Qualifying and being on the big stage will get me closer to achieving my dream of playing overseas as the doors will be starting to open not just for me but for the all the players.

You play for Banyana Banyana and Basetsana, are the other players looking up to you for inspiration?
TK: Being in both teams is not easy because the levels are not the same. But what I can say is that football is a team sport, I cannot do it alone, we have to work as a team and ensure that we defeat Nigeria.

Banyana Banyana have qualified for the Olympics, is that some pressure for Basetsana to do well or does it serve as an inspiration?
TK: No, we are not under any pressure. We are two different sides. We have to focus on the job at hand and not feel pressure because Banyana Banyana are going to the Olympics, instead we have to use that as motivation. But we still have to work hard to achieve what we want. It’s a good thing that they have qualified before us, now we can look up to them for inspiration. We have a good coach, a good technical team and a good group overall, so I believe we can do it.

How happy were you when you heard Banyana Banyana qualified for the Olympics?
TK: I was at home and following the match on social media because it was not broadcast on television here at home. The network was not good on the day, and I missed the point when we scored, but when I realised we had scored, I jumped up and down with joy because it meant so much to me. Even though I was not there I was behind them all the way. When the goal came I knew that we were going to win and qualify because in the first leg Equatorial Guinea didn’t really trouble us. The girls fought hard in that match, and made history by defeating Equatorial Guinea in their backyard, the first team to do that in a very long time and I will always remember that.

Coming to you personally, you have been getting accolades off the field. Tell us about that.
TK: It is my first year at the University of Western Cape and for me to win these awards is amazing, I still can’t believe it. The first one was when I got full colours for playing for the national team. The next was the big one – UWC Sports Woman of the Year where I was competing against a hockey player but I came out tops after the votes. A week later I was invited to the Student Development Awards where students are rewarded for being able to balance the academic side and the sporting side. I was up against a boxer, who was coincidentally the Sportsman of the Year, and I walked away with the Overall Achiever Award. There is another one coming up soon – I have been nominated for the Players Player of the Year Award and we will see how it goes, but the focus for now is on Nigeria, the award will come after because nothing means more than qualifying for the World Cup.

How is it balancing academia and sport?
TK: It is very difficult, but it is all up in the mind. You have to tell yourself that you want to do this, this is what you want and this where I want to go. The other day at the awards we had a motivational speaker who said “as a person you need to draw up a contract with yourself, tell yourself this is me and this is what I want, but for me to get what I want it is going to require hard work’”and what that means is that if you want to be one of the best players you need to train hard, and equally if you want to graduate you have to study hard – nothing comes easy in life, you are not going to be given free marks and a pass because you play for the national team. A balancing act is very important, but you need to stick to it so you can achieve your goals.

What are you studying at UWC?
TK: I am studying for a BA Degree in Tourism Management. Three more years before I graduate. But I have a feeling next year is going to be a bit tough, more so should we qualify for the World Cup with Basetsana, seeing that Banyana Banyana has already qualified for the Olympics. But we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

How important is education for players?
TK: It is very important because the truth is you can’t play the game forever. Tomorrow you get an injury and you have nothing to fall back on. It is great for players to study and play at an early stage, however difficult it is but at the end of it all it is worth it. The challenge with focusing on the game only is that once you stop playing it is more often than not a challenge to go into education, as the urge is not there anymore.

Who is Thembi Kgatlana?
TK: I am from the west of Johannesburg, a place called Mohlakeng near Randfontein. I don’t want to boast but I come from a place that has produced football stars like Ace Ntsoelengoe, Didi Khuse, Oupa Manyisa, Edward Manqele, Pule Ekstein, to mention but a few. I grew up playing with boys since I was eight years old.

The national team?
TK: I started playing for the national team in 2010 after being called up for the U20 trials but I started at the u17 where I played for two years. I went to the High Performance Centre (HPC) in Pretoria, spending three years there and now I am at UWC. My first goal was against Botswana earlier this year, in fact I scored two in that game. They were very special goals for me.

Dreams and aspirations?
TK: I would love to play overseas some day for a big team like Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea and hopefully it would be after I graduate from my studies.

 Any message to the fans?
TK: We would love them to come out in numbers to cheer us on in this important mission. With their support in the stands we have a good chance of defeating Nigeria. We will do the best we can to achieve the best results for our country. It is going to be tough but we have the will and belief to come out victorious. Nigeria must know that we are going to war, we will not make it easy for them. We will fight with everything we have to the end to reach our goal of going to the World Cup.

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