Banyana Banyana midfielder Kholosa Biyana (24) has disproved the long-held belief that physicians cannot heal themselves.
The qualified radiologist relied on her knowledge to overcome a career-threatening injury last year.
“I suffered two serious injuries to my one leg at the same time – an ankle and a knee injury – but I knew how important it was for me to stay away from football, and gave myself enough time to recover completely,” Biyana told City Press.
She was confined to the sidelines for six months and, in the process, missed out on Banyana’s 2018 Afcon qualifier against Lesotho, and later the Cyprus Cup.
“Being a radiologist helped me because I knew that if I gave myself enough time to recover, there’d be less chance of me getting injured again,” she said.
Although she nearly gave up on the game, Biyana is now back in contention for a berth in coach Desiree Ellis’ squad for the Fifa Women’s World Cup, which takes place in France from June 7 to July 7.
South Africa face world champions USA in a friendly match in California tonight. It is after this warm-up game that Ellis will name her final squad of 23 going to the month-long global tournament.
Biyana has been used mainly as a substitute since her comeback during the Cosafa Cup in September, but remains hopeful that she will play in France.
“I almost gave up, but I didn’t because the coach didn’t give up on me,” said Biyana, who hails from Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape.
“The technical team told me to keep on training and that’s what I did after my rehabilitation. After being recalled to the team, I realised that I could still make it. I am back here, pushing to make the final squad [going to the World Cup].”
To this end, she has made some sacrifices along the way, such as quitting her day job at Mjanyana Hospital in her home province to focus on football.
But Biyana has no regrets: “Had I not quit my job, I wouldn’t be here because I was working in the deep rural areas. It was very hard to train. I was training with the boys. So I had to make that sacrifice because I knew what I wanted – to be in Banyana some day.”
With 18 caps under her belt, Biyana came through the senior national team ranks after being spotted during a training camp in 2017.
However, the defining point for Biyana was when she moved from the Eastern Cape to study radiology at Durban University of Technology in KwaZulu-Natal.
She was guided by Banyana assistant coach Thina Mbuli while she was in the university’s national team.
The pair have already tasted victory against the US, albeit on another level: it was the player’s beautifully struck free kick that sent the South African university team to the next round of the World Student Games in Taipei two years ago.
It is such memories that humble Biyana.
“Not everyone gets a chance to play at the highest level of sport, especially when you are from a rural area like where I come from,” said the stocky midfielder, who idolises Banyana legend Refiloe Jane.
“We have been playing together since our time at University Sports SA and she has not changed a bit. Fifi [Jane’s nickname] has played overseas and her attitude is always on point. She is also doing well in her studies.”
Biyana is currently in her third year of study for a sports science degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
“I know that one day it will also pay off and that once I am retired from football, I will have something to fall back on,” she said.
“It is not easy to juggle soccer and studies because we have a lot of camps, but I will push on. The most important thing is to balance them.”
Against the US tonight, Banyana will be minus Sweden-based Leandra Smeda, as well as the China-based duo of Thembi Kgatlana and Linda Motlhalo, because of club commitments – the fixture does not fall under a Fifa calendar date.
Ellis said: “It’s another opportunity to gauge our team just before the start of the World Cup. It’s also the final opportunity for players to fight for the spots in the World Cup squad, which we’ll announce soon after this match.”
Banyana Banyana vs USA
Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, US
Kickoff: 10.45pm SA time