South African women’s footballer Refiloe Jane, turning out for Canberra next season, has had a meteoric rise in the sport.
South African women’s footballer Refiloe Jane has had a remarkable rise in her career that will enter a new phase in the coming months when she turns out for Australian side Canberra United.
Jane was in Grade 11 when she was spotted in a player talent search, plucked from obscurity and put onto the path to a highly successful career with her technical ability already standing out from her peers.
The diminutive midfielder has since appeared at the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016, captained the South African national side that is nicknamed Banyana Banyana, and is now set to become the latest player in the country to ply their trade abroad.
She is part of a growing contingent of exports, as just two years ago there were no players at clubs outside of colleges in the United States.
But since then her compatriots Janine van Wyk, Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo have turned out for Houston Dash in the prestigious National Women’s Soccer League, Leandra Smeda now plays for top Lithuanian side Gintra Universitetas and Ode Fulutudilu plays at Finland side ONS.
Jane and fellow Banyana star Rhoda Mulaudzi will carry the mantle further when they turn out for Canberra next season.
For Soweto-born Jane it is an almost unbelievable level of success that started with winning a talent search at the age of 16, which came with a prize of a trip to England to train with professional clubs that opened her eyes to the level required to be a success.
“Winning the Gauteng Future Champions Talent Identification Programme really kick-started my career and gave me so much confidence to believe that I can play for a top local side and even internationally,” Jane tells FORBES AFRICA.
“The time I spent with Arsenal and Everton also opened my eyes up to what is required to be a professional player and I made sure that I put into practice what I learned there.
“Although I had not gone there for trials, both coaches of the teams wanted me to stay, but I was still at school. That is when I realized that I might actually have some special talent to offer the beautiful game.
“And that is when I started pursuing this dream of mine of wanting to go and play abroad. I am glad it’s finally happening.”
Jane is a key figure for the national side that will hope to win the African Women’s Championship in Ghana in November, though just finishing in the top three will get them a place at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France and a first-ever place at the global finals.
It has also been a meteoric rise for her in a national team jersey, including wearing the captain’s armband.
“After joining Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies in late 2010, I put my head down and said to myself that I am going to give everything I have to try and make it into the Banyana Banyana squad.
“I feel very happy and honoured and appreciate the platform I have been given to showcase my talent and represent my country. It hasn’t been easy but with the determination and hard work, it was enough to get me here.
“I earned my first cap in Cyprus in 2012. I remember when I came on [as a substitute], we were leading against Northern Ireland and our coach then, Joseph Mkhonza, said to me, ‘this is your chance to start your national team career, run with it and see how far it takes you’. I cannot believe how far I have come.”
– Nick Said