Racing Louisville forward Thembi Kgatlana, who is also a vital part of the Sasol-sponsored Banyana Banyana attack, says she was overjoyed to see herself back on the field doing something she loves – playing football.
The USA-based player has been out of action for 10 months after sustaining an Achilles Tendon injury while representing her country at the 2022 CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations held in Morocco in July.
After undergoing surgery, followed by thorough rehabilitation – both in South Africa and the US – she made her debut for her new club this past weekend (Sunday, 7 May) against Orlando Pride.
She was introduced in the 86th minute, with her side 1-0 down.
“It was amazing to come back and play, but it was also a very bittersweet moment for me because I signed with Louisville a year ago and I only get to play now. Tough result today, but I think for me it was an achievement,” she told the media in the USA after her match.
The 2018 CAF African Woman Player of the Year says she kept on believing that she would return to the field, mainly because of the support she received while out of action.
With the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup around the corner (20 July to 20 August), the Randfontein-born striker adds that she will forever be grateful to Racing Louisville for standing beside her throughout her lengthy spell on the spell on the side lines.
“To be honest, time was the only challenging thing. I knew I would come back because I had great support from the minute I got injured – Louisville was always there with me and supported me. The medical team here was in constant check with my medical team in South Africa, the medical team in South Africa also made sure that I went for surgery as soon as possible, and I was able to get proper surgery, proper physios, and also do a better foundation so that when I came back for pre-season to join Louisville, I didn’t have too much to do because I already had a base of where I would start,” she added.
When people tell you that you are out for a year you kind of have everything in your head saying ‘oh damn, a year is such a long time’ but I took it one day at a time. But I think the best thing that made me to have passion to come back was how Louisville supported me even when I got injured. I signed with them on a Thursday, I got injured on a Sunday. I mean, they could have easily pulled out and say ‘hey, we no longer want you’ but the fact that they showed that they wanted me to be there, was something that I put at the back of my mind that I wanted to come back and play for this club. I would like to say thank you to Louisville, the technical team, my federation, and everyone else who supported me so that I may be able to come back and play”
Talking about the clash against Orlando Pride, Kgatlana was the first to admit that it was not a good day at the office for the squad.
“It was a tough result away from home. We started very slow, we needed a bit of energy in the first half, and I think they (Orlando Pride) got a lucky goal – they didn’t have to work hard for it. But we came back in the second half, and we were able to bring a lot of energy, we were sure of what we wanted to do, we were intentional about it. We challenged them more but as I said, a tough result and we have to pull our heads up because we still have a long season ahead of us,” said Kgatlana.
Racing Louisville hasn’t tasted victory this season. This was their second defeat in six matches, with four draws played.
“The Challenge Cup is coming up, I think we need to pick ourselves up. Of course, we didn’t start the season great but if we continue to keep fighting, keep working for each other, it’s only a matter of time until we get a result. We just have to keep working and believing in ourselves, believing in this team and I know that we have a couple of home games coming so I think playing at home will also cheer us up, having our fans supporting us.”
Racing is second from bottom on the log standings of the 12-team league in the NWSL.
They next host Chicago Red Stars, who are at the basement of the table – the clash will be played at the Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, 12 May.
This article was written By Matlhomola Morake for centercircle.com and relayed by kick442.com as an official media partner.
By Matlhomola Morak