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How One Female South African Footballer Is Forging Ahead

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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

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Caster Semenya Releases List Of Experts For Battle With IAAF At CAS

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Caster Semenya has released a list of experts she will call in her appeal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) this week in her fight against regulations aimed at lowering the testosterone levels of hyperandrogenic athletes like her.

The South African 800-metres double Olympic champion on Monday expressed her disappointment after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) revealed the names of their five witnesses for the proceedings in Lausserne.

She called it a breach of confidentiality rules ahead of a five-day appeal that could have far reaching consequences for sport. The IAAF deny any wrong-doing.

She will call on a range of experts from various fields, and used the announcement of their names, through her lawyers, to reiterate her stance on the IAAF’s proposed regulations.

READ MORE | ‘From Zero to Hero’: The Queen Of The 800 meters Caster Semenya

“The IAAF regulations do not empower anyone,” the statement said. “Rather, they represent yet another flawed and hurtful attempt to police the sex of female athletes.

“Ms Semenya’s courage and perseverance in her fight to run free is an inspiration to young athletes in her home country of South Africa and around the globe.”

The IAAF regulations stipulate that women with elevated testosterone take medication to reduce their level before being allowed to compete, but only in the middle-distance events of between 400- and 1500-metres where it is claimed the advantage is most felt.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe told reporters on Monday that the regulations are aimed at leveling the field between hyperandrogenic athletes and those with normal levels of testosterone.

The IAAF’s previous attempts to regulate testosterone in female athletes fell foul of a CAS ruling in 2015 following an appeal on behalf of Indian Dutee Chand, who had been banned from competing because of her high levels.

CAS claimed in their judgment that the IAAF had not provided sufficient evidence that hyperandrogenic athletes gained a significant advantage due to their testosterone count.

A verdict could take up to a month, according to CAS.

The experts who will testify in support of Semenya are listed as:

  • Prof Veronica Gomez-Lobo, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University and the Director of the DSD (Differences of Sexual Development) Clinic at the Children’s National Health System in Washington‚ DC.
  • Dr Alun Williams, Director of the Sports Genomics Laboratory at Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Professor Eric Vilain, specialist in gender-based and endocrine genetics‚ including DSD, who has consulted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • Professor Roger Pielke Jr, director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado.
  • Professor Dankmar Böhning, Chair in Medical Statistics at the University of Southampton.
  • Professor Richard Holt, expert in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Southampton.
  • Professor Anthony C Hackney, University of North Carolina‚ with joint appointments in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science and the Department of Nutrition School of Public Health.

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  • Dr Lih-Mei Liao, clinical and health psychologist in the United Kingdom who has worked extensively with women diagnosed with a range of DSD conditions.
  • Dr Payoshni Mitra, teaches Sport Sociology at Birkbeck College‚ University of London and works closely with athletes with hyperandrogenism and DSD from the Southern Hemisphere.
  • Ashley LaBrie‚ Executive Director of AthletesCAN‚ an independent organization that represents the interests of all national team athletes in Canada. –Reuters

-Nick Said

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Thembi Kgatlana’s Long And Hard Road to Houghston

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Thembi Kgatlana’s goal was to make a living playing abroad. She is now proving to be a star of not just South African football but also the African game.

As South African forward Thembi Kgatlana crashed home a volley in the closing minutes of their African Women’s Championship match against nemesis Nigeria, she wheeled away in celebration, accepting the passionate thanks of her teammates.

Kgatlana had sealed just a second victory for South Africa over their old foes in 25 years of trying and for her, it capped a remarkable 2018 that has seen her thrust onto the global stage and into the best women’s football league in the world.

The goal provided all you need to know about the Leratong hospital-born footballer – the awareness to make the run, the speed to get away from the defender, the confidence to take on the shot and the technique to finish past the goalkeeper.

Kgatlana must be one of the quickest players in women’s football, but she has been eager to show in the last 12 months that her game is about much more than pace and she has certainly developed quickly after a first year spent at Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States (US).

She was there with national teammates Janine van Wyk and Linda Motlhalo in 2018, and will return with the latter in 2019 having had her professional contract that she worked so hard to earn, renewed for another season.

She had hoped to move abroad after the 2016 Olympic Games, where she represented South Africa, but it took a further 18 months for a club to finally take a punt on her talent.

“The wait has been worth it,” Kgatlana tells FORBES WOMAN AFRICA with a broad smile, adding her debut for Dash was unforgettable despite a 3-0 loss.

“It was a moment I had always dreamed of, that I had waited for so long for and made so many sacrifices for. I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life.”

She says her goal has always been to play abroad and make a living out of football. The South African domestic scene is still amateur and cannot provide that support.

“It’s a dream I have been working towards for the whole of my life, since I started playing as an eight year old, working my way through the junior national teams, then to the senior national team. It’s been a long and a hard road, but I’m here now,” Kgatlana says.

She admits her first year in the US was an eye-opener in terms of the level of football and the commitment players put into the game.

“You really have to work hard, everyone is professional and most have been playing at this level for quite a while. They have the experience.

“It’s all about learning and adapting quickly. In life, you face challenges and it’s up to you what you do with those.

“I had to drop out of school [University of the Western Cape] in my final year to wear a professional jersey and to be in the fold to win a contract with a big club.

“I hope it motivates a lot of girls back home to show that anything is possible and dreams do come true.”

The 22-year-old made 16 appearances in her first season with Dash, scoring two goals but also providing a number of assists.

She was used a lot as an impact player off the bench, her extreme pace allowing her to glide past weary defenders in the closing stages of matches. She will want to turn those into more starts in 2019, but also understands her role within the side.

It is also something she has taken on with the national side, known as Banyana Banyana, where she has been an integral part of the set-up for some time, and was named Player of the Tournament when the team lifted the COSAFA Women’s Championship in 2016.

While one player’s career can never be defined by a single goal, Kgatlana has managed to write her name into the history books of Banyana with what is one of the more famous strikes against a Nigerian side that has been the number one team in Africa for many years.

“It was the most amazing feeling ever, because I knew that if I let it bounce a second time, I might not get the chance,” Kgatlana says.

“It’s either I hit it and I see what happens, or I don’t hit it. The adrenaline was rushing, because every time I get into the box, I’m still deciding. But at the moment, when the ball bounced, it was now or never.”

Kgatlana has announced herself as a genuine star of not just South African football but also the African game and her challenge in the coming years will be to kick-on and continue to improve.

She certainly has the drive, passion and the skill to do so, and her development into potential global icon over the next few years will be fascinating to watch.

  • Nick Said

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Egypt to host 2019 African Nations Cup

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Egypt will host the 2019 African Nations Cup finals, the Confederation of African Football confirmed after a meeting of their executive committee in Dakar on Tuesday.

They will stage the expanded 24-team event in June-July after initial hosts Cameroon were stripped of the tournament last month over concerns at the slow pace of preparations.

The North African nation will host the competition for the fourth time, and the first since 2006, after the announcement was made by CAF president Ahmad at a media briefing in the Senegalese capital.

Egypt and South Africa were the only two countries to put forward their candidacies to replace Cameroon.

It will be the first time there will be 24 teams at the tournament and CAF, after several inspection visits over the last two years, said Cameroon would not be ready in time.

Egypt has extensive football facilities, although in recent years attendances at local matches have been restricted because of security concerns following the Arab Spring revolution and Tahrir Square demonstrations in 2011.

The final round of qualifiers for the tournament will be held in March, with 14 nations, including Egypt, having already sealed their place at the finals. -Reuters

Nick Said

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