It has been a while since a South African player ascended the podium at the CAF Awards.
Expectations are that Banyana Banyana star Thembi Kgatlana could be the one to end Nigeria’s stranglehold on the African women’s player of the year award, having made the short list before.
Former Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini believes Kgatlana stands a good chance, provided that the members of the judging panel base their vote on overall performance.
“I hope they look at the overall performance. If so, Thembi stands a big chance, judging by how she stood out in the Cosafa Cup and during the Afcon qualifiers,” said Dlamini, who retired from the national team a year ago, having amassed 105 caps in a Banyana jersey.
Kgatlana (22), who is from Randfontein in the West Rand, will again go head-to-head with the title holder, Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala, and her compatriot, Francisca Ordega. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, on Tuesday.
“Oshoala has been a regular starter and has been performing consistently in China. But we have not seen much of that at continental level,” said Dlamini.
Oshoala (24) inspired her Chinese side, Dalian Quanjian, to a league and cup double with 19 goals, while Kgatlana made 16 appearances in her debut season at Houston Dash in the US.
She almost single-handedly powered Banyana to a runner-up spot at the African Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana last month.
Kgatlana was named the player of the tournament and also claimed the top goal scorer’s award with five goals.
Her goals include the wonder strike that gave Banyana a rare victory over Nigeria in the group stage of the event, although the Super Falcons still went on to win the final on penalties, at the expense of South Africa.
Kgatlana is also up for the CAF goal of the year award.
Prior to the Afcon finals, Kgatlana played a leading role in Banyana defending the Cosafa Women’s Championship in September 2017.
She also headed into the Ghana continental championships having been crowned the most valuable player at the Cyprus Women’s Cup in March, despite South Africa having finished fifth at the tournament. Spain was the winner.
Nigeria’s women footballers have claimed 10 CAF women’s player of the year awards since the Super Falcons’ yesteryear hero, Mercy Akide, led the accolades by clinching the 2001 crown, followed by Perpetua Nkwocha in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011. Cynthia Uwak took the honours in 2006 and 2007, while Oshoala, a former Arsenal and Liverpool Ladies midfielder, won in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
“It will be fitting that a young woman like Thembi caps the wonderful work of South African women’s football with this accolade,” said Dlamini.
Veteran Banyana defender Noko Matlou was the last South African, male or female, to be voted the continent’s best player when she got the nod in 2008.
“The truth is, I am up against tough candidates, but I feel more confident going to the awards this time around,” said Kgatlana, who is part of the Banyana squad that will face the Netherlands and Sweden in friendly fixtures in Cape Town later this month.
“I thank my team-mates and the coaching staff because football is a team sport. If it was not for them, I would not have performed the way I did, and would not have received these nominations.”
Winners will be announced on January 8.