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Banyana Banyana star on the mend in the USA

by Lesley Ngwa
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Nine months after leaving the field with an injury in Morocco, Banyana Banyana forward Thembi Kgatlana is back on the green grass again after undergoing high-intensity rehabilitation at home with the help of a trainer.

She ruptured her Achilles tendon in the TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations group stages clash against neighbours Botswana on July 10 last year, and was never to kick to a ball again until recently in the USA.

After returning from North Africa, Kgatlana spent the remaining half of 2022 working hard on recovering from her injury. Earlier this year she jetted off to be with her new club.

The Randfontein-born star has made so much progress that she has now been introduced back on the field to join her teammates at training at Racing Louisville who campaign in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).

“It feels amazing to be back especially in the year of the World Cup. I am so excited. The good thing is that there is positive progress as I have been fully training with the team for the last three weeks, while continuing with my rehabilitation,” said Kgatlana from Louisville.

She also took to social media to applaud the club for their support, whom she signed for before her injury.

While recuperating, the 2018 CAF African Women’s Player of the Year missed six international friendly matches: twice against Brazil, Australia, Uzbekistan, Slovenia and more recently, Serbia.

When probed on how long it will be before she can be cleared to play, she had this to say:

“The time will come, I need a little bit of patience. I don’t want to rush it and break down again,” said Kgatlana.

Racing Louisville has already played four matches since the beginning of the season – and are yet to register a win after three draws and a loss. They next face OL Reigns on Saturday, (29 April 2023).

“This league is tough. We are doing our best each match and we just have to get our rhythm to start winning matches and getting points,” added Kgatlana.

“Off the field, Louisville is good, I love it here. I haven’t been out a lot, because it has been cold. But the weather is starting to be warm and nice.”

The news of the forward making positive progress is music to the ears of Desiree Ellis, head coach of the Sasol-Sponsored Banyana Banyana.

“It’s very exciting, I’ve been in constant contact with Thembi and she’s on track, I think she will be like a new signing. We have played without her for almost a year now and she’s doing really great, and Louisville is looking after her tremendously, and that’s a big help to us. They love her out there and they’re doing everything in their power to get her ready, but we’ve been in contact, and she’s been in contact with the conditioning coach, so she is on track, and we are really looking forward to seeing her back in the team,” said Ellis.

South Africa has been drawn in Group G at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand.

They face Sweden, Argentina and Italy in the Group stages.

Kgatlana remains the only South African to have scored at a FIFA Women’s World Cup – she netted in the 3-1 loss to Spain in 2019 in France.

And she will be hoping to be fully back in action when Ellis names her final World Cup squad in the coming months – the women’s global football showpiece is scheduled for 20 July to 20 August.

This piece was written By Matlhomola Morake for centrecircle.com and relayed by kick442.com as an official media partner.

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