“I KNEW there was something special coming my way.”
This is what Banyana Banyana star, Thembi Kgatlana, felt before she went to Dakar, Senegal where she brought back the biggest honours in African women’s football.
African Women’s Player of the Year 2018 and Goal of the Year accolades belong to the Randfontein, Mohlakeng-born player.
She appreciated the honour of rubbing shoulders with Men’s Player of the Year Mohamed Salah and legends such as Didier Drogba, George Weah and Samuel Eto’o.
She edged Nigerian duo – Asisat Oshoala and Francisca Ordega – to become the second South African woman player to wear the Player of the Year crown, after veteran Noko Matlou won it in 2008.
Kgatlana’s goal against Nigeria in their first match of the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations received more votes because of its beauty.
The goal curled in the air like a lazy bird in the sky before descending in the near corner and hit the net.
Kgatlana’s success ended Nigeria’s stranglehold on the African Women’s Player of the Year category, who have won it over 10 times.
“I’m very happy that I won two awards on the night, two best awards of my life. They mean a lot to me. They will always be a motivation and will make me continue working hard,” said the celebrated Houston Dash FC striker in the US.
“My performance in the Afcon in Ghana put me ahead of my competition. I knew then that there was something special coming my way.”
The 22-year-old had a tournament to remember where she scored five goals that helped Banyana finish as runner’s up, and enabled the team to qualify for this year’s Fifa Women’s Word Cup in France.
She says this is not the end but rather the beginning of a new era.
“Nigeria has been dominant when it comes to women’s football and this award will be a motivation, not only to me, but all African women players,” said star better known as “Pikinini” in football circles because of her height.
“I would like to win it several times like the likes of Perpetua Nkwocha, who has won it more than three times.
“This is the highlight of my career.”
In attendance was her father, Matlhomola, who witnessed the moment when her daughter was named African Diski Queen.
“My father is very happy, but he told me that I have not won anything. Winning one trophy does not make me a star.”
Banyana coach Desiree Ellis was crowned African Women’s coach of the year.
Ellis became the first coach to lead Banyana to qualify for their first ever World Cup, which will be held in France from 7 June until 7 July.