Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa during the International Women Friendly match between Japan and South Africa at Kitakyushu Stadium, Japan, on November 10 2019. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX/SYDNEY MAHLANGU
Thembi Kgatlana of South Africa during the International Women Friendly match between Japan and South Africa at Kitakyushu Stadium, Japan, on November 10 2019. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX/SYDNEY MAHLANGU

Thembi Kgatlana’s move to top Portuguese club Benfica is the latest in a number of high-profile signings for Banyana Banyana players as the country continues to reap the benefit of their Fifa Women’s World Cup appearance in 2019.

SA’s place in the finals focused the spotlight on the country’s female footballers and a number of players have gone on to benefit as interest in SA players is at an all-time high.

“I am very excited to sign with Benfica, thank you to the team, the president and everybody involved, for giving me the opportunity to come to Portugal,” Kgatlana told her new club’s website.

“Benfica is a great club in Portugal and the world. I saw their records, for me to be able to get into such a big club is an honour.

“We are currently No 1 in the league and they [the supporters] must continue supporting the girls because hopefully at the end of the season we can lift the trophy.”

Benfica's vice-president, Fernando Tavares, says the club believes Kgatlana can become a genuine star.

“We have very high expectations in relation to Thembi,” he said. “She was considered the best African player of the year in 2019, she is a player with very strong characteristics, she is very fast, she can play one or two positions on the field.

“This acquisition will endow Benfica’s attack with several solutions to add to the ones we already have.”

Benfica have been the dominant force in Portuguese women’s football since they were formed in 2017, winning 47 of their 49 matches played, with a draw and just a single defeat.

They have scored 94 goals in their 13 matches this season and conceded only one.

But the pacy Kgatlana has not been the only Banyana star on the move in recent times.

Last week striker Kelso Peskin joined French second-tier side Toulouse and was in action on the weekend. Peskin has been playing college soccer in the US for the past few years.

There is also Linda Motlhalo, who has moved to Swedish side Djurgardens, where compatriot Stephanie Malherbe played last season before injury cut her campaign short.

Motlhalo’s silky skills should be well-suited to the Swedish league.

Refiloe Jane has been starring this season for AC Milan and is a fixture in their side in Italy, while defender Regina Mogolola is also at Serbian side Red Star Belgrade.

Letago Madiba, who has nine goals in nine starts, and Rachel Sebati are at Turkish outfit ALG Spor.

Andisiwe Mgcoyi has a stunning 17 goals in eight games for Apolonia in the Albanian league, where she is joined by Zanele Nhlapo.

Leandra Smeda was also at Vittsjö in Sweden in 2019, but has not had her contract renewed.

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