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15 July 2021
UWC alumna and global football star Thembi Kgatlana shares her story of defying the odds in newly-released biography

The newly-released biography of University of the Western Cape football sensation and Banyana Banyana player Thembi Kgatlana, Strike a Rock: The Thembi Kgatlana Story, sends a strong message of resilience ahead of Women’s Month in August.

The 25-year-old Kgatlana has plenty to celebrate. Not only has the phenomenal centre-forward signed a two-year deal to play for Atletico Madrid’s women’s team in Spain, but she also features in a thought-provoking biography, authored by Nikolaos Kirkinis, that celebrates her journey from the streets of Mohlakeng to the international sports arena. 

Strike a Rock: The Thembi Kgatlana Story, published by Jacana Press, is about so much more than a footballer’s rise to fame. It is a story of struggle and triumph, of overcoming the odds and defying stereotypes. The biography grapples with complex issues such as addiction, identity and family ties. Ultimately, it is a story of hope. 

Kgatlana contributed significantly to the success of the UWC women’s football team during her time on campus, and was named UWC’s Sportswoman of the Year in 2017. She was also chosen as the University Sport South Africa Woman Player of the Tournament for two consecutive years, proudly represented South Africa in the 2016 Olympics, and received numerous other accolades. 

Kgatlana was named as the COSAFA Women’s Cup Player of the tournament in 2017 and she netted South Africa’s first-ever goal in the FIFA Women’s Cup in 2019, against Spain. And she was only the second South African ever to win, in 2018, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Women’s Player of the Year Award - the most prestigious award for women footballers on the African continent. That same year, her stunning goal against Nigeria at the African Women Cup of Nations in Ghana earned her the CAF Goal of the Year Award.  

While at UWC, Kgatlana also did her part to uplift the community. She launched the Thembi Kgatlana Football Tournament to empower youth in Mohlakeng by using proceeds from the event to buy soccer balls and sanitary pads that were donated to schools, and blankets that were given to old age homes.

The virtual launch of the biography this week featured Kgatlana in discussion with seasoned sports anchor Carol Tshabalala.

For more about the biography
For more about UWC’s rising sports stars