Thembi Kgatlana Biography: Early Life | Education | Club Career | International Career | Personal Life
Thembi Kgatlana Early life and education
Thembi Kgatlana was born on May 2, 1996, in Mohlakeng, a township in the west of Johannesburg, South Africa. She grew up in a football-loving family and started playing the game at the age of six. She joined a local boys’ team and soon showed her talent and passion for the sport.
She attended Mohlakeng Primary School and later Dinizulu Secondary School, where she also excelled academically. She graduated from high school in 2014 and enrolled at the University of the Western Cape, where she studied sports management. She also played for the university’s women’s soccer team and won several trophies and awards.
Kgatlana began her club career in South Africa and has played for various teams such as TUT, Lusaka FC, Napoli FC, and Parma Ladies. In 2018, she moved to the United States to join the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League. Her former national team coach Vera Pauw brought her in and joined her South African teammates Janine van Wyk and Linda Motlhalo in Houston. Kgatlana made 16 appearances with Houston and scored two goals.
In 2019, Kgatlana signed with Beijing BG Phoenix F.C. in the Chinese Women’s Super League. She was joined by Motlhalo who also made the move from Houston to China. Kgatlana scored six league goals in 10 appearances during the 2019 season, helping her Beijing BG Phoenix side to a fifth-place finish.
In 2020, Kgatlana moved to Portugal and signed with SL Benfica. She made her debut with the club in a 3–1 win over Braga in Taça da Liga Feminina. She helped Benfica to the final of both the Portuguese Cup and Taca da Liga Femenina competitions as well as the top of the league table. The result was enough to qualify the club for the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time in their history.
Later that year, Kgatlana transferred to Spain and joined newly promoted Primera División side SD Eibar on a one-year contract. She made her debut on October 4, 2020, in a 1–0 victory over Real Betis, before opening her goalscoring account the following week in a 2–2 draw against Levante. She scored 10 goals in 27 appearances for Eibar during the 2020-21 season.
In 2021, Kgatlana signed with Atlético Madrid. She scored six goals in 25 appearances for Atlético during the 2021-22 season, helping them to finish second in the league and reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
In 2022, Kgatlana moved back to the United States and joined Racing Louisville FC in the National Women’s Soccer League. She made her debut on July 25, 2022, in a 1–1 draw against Kansas City NWSL.
Kgatlana made her debut for the South Africa women’s national team in 2014 at the age of 18. She represented her country at the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, where she won the Player of the Tournament and was the highest goal scorer. Kgatlana also represented South Africa at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, where she scored her country’s first goal ever in the tournament. She has scored 23 goals in 71 appearances for South Africa as of July 2023.
Thembi Kgatlana Personal Life
Kgatlana is known by her nickname “Breadwinner”. She is a follower of African traditional religion and a sangoma, a traditional healer who can divine the will of the spirits. She has often spoken about her spiritual journey and how she communicates with her ancestors through dreams and rituals. She is also a fan of music and poetry and has released a poetry album titled “Ukuthula”, which means “peace” in Xhosa.
Kgatlana is not married and has no children. She is focused on her soccer career and her education. She hopes to inspire and empower young girls and women through her work.