Sport

Kgatlana ready for life after Vera at Dash

2019-01-12 20:48

Newly minted African player of the year Thembi Kgatlana will begin life without her coach, Vera Pauw, when the 22-year-old striker returns to the US for her second season with Houston Dash.

Pauw, who personally recruited Kgatlana to Dash following their time together at Banyana Banyana,left the club following the expiry of her contract last season.

Apart from the Mohlakeng, Randfontein-born winger, the Dutch mentor also introduced Linda Motlhalo and Janine van Wyk to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

“It was a bit sad because we were used to Vera,” Kgatlana told City Press, a few days after she scooped the African player of the year and the best goal accolades at the CAF Awards in Senegal on Tuesday.

Her national team mentor, Desiree Ellis, took the coach of the year gong at the same event in Dakar.

Pikinini – Kgatlana’s nickname – and compatriots will report for duty in the US under new coach James Clarkson (46), who was named as Pauw’s replacement last month.

“Obviously we have a new coach now and one can only hope to impress to get game time,” said the

Read: What a year it was for SA women's football

former University of Western Cape player.

In her debut season Kgatlana did not start many games, unlike her national team captain, Van Wyk, and midfielder Motlhalo, who had a bigger chunk of action under Pauw.

Kgatlana, made 16 appearances for Dash.

She was in the starting line-up on two occasions, while mostly being used as a substitute in other matches. She scored two goals.

But club matters are not a cause for concern for Kgatlana at the moment as the new NWSL campaign will kick off in April.

Her focus is on Banyana’s build up to their maiden World Cup in France from June 7 to July 7.

She linked up with her national team-mates at a training camp in Cape Town for Banyana’s upcoming games against World Cup-bound Holland and Sweden in the Mother City.

South Africa will first face Sweden behind closed doors at the Athlone Stadium on Thursday morning.

“To stage a Banyana game is about R2.5 million and already we’re talking about R5 million for the two matches in Cape Town.

“It is going to be exciting to play against the two countries again. They are among the best in Europe and they will provide us with ideal preparation that we need building up to France,” said last year’s Afcon player of the tournament.

Ellis’ charges will meet the Netherlands in a once-off Winnie Mandela International Challenge clash at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday; and Sweden in the Albertina Sisulu Centenary Challenge at Cape Town Stadium on January 22.

These games are all part of a hectic schedule for Banyana leading to France this year.

Safa acting chief executive Russell Paul said the federation would pull out all the stops to give Banyana the best preparations possible, even if it means stretching Safa’s limited finances.

“It will drain Safa’s coffers because we don’t have enough partners but we’ll provide for the team,” said Paul, adding that it would cost Safa about R20 million to help prepare Banyana ahead of the team’s debut in the global showpiece.

“To stage a Banyana game is about R2.5 million and already we’re talking about R5 million for the two matches in Cape Town.

“To put the team into a training camp costs between R5 million and R7 million. This includes the players’ allowances, the medical staff costs, accommodation and paying for training facilities.”

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January 20 2019