(Published - 22 January 2019)
UWC alumna and Banyana Banyana veteran star midfielder, Leandra Smeda, has signed her second professional football contract, having joined Swedish top league side Vittsjo GIK this month.
Smeda has penned a 10-month contract with the Scandinavian team after a four-month stint with FK Gintra-Universitetas in Lithuania, where she made history by becoming the first South African woman footballer to score in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
Sweden’s premier women’s league, the Damallsvenskan, is rated among the top women’s football leagues in the world, and Smeda aims to make the most out her time there.
“As footballers we gain experience with every game we play, so I always aim to improve in all aspects of my game, and there is still room for improvement,” she said from the Banyana Banyana camp this week, ahead of their friendly game against Sweden on Tuesday evening.
Smeda said she was approached by Vittsjo representatives at the African Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana late last year, where she played a pivotal role in Banyana finishing runners up to Nigeria and qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time. Her agent at LTA Agency agreed on terms with Vittsjo to pave a way for her to join the team.
With South Africa set to establish its first professional football league for women this year, Smeda believes there is a huge difference between amateur and professional football.
“Playing professional is obviously a step higher. Players you play with and against at a higher level are technically and tactically better, so when you step up to a pro level your game obviously changes.You get treated more professionally as well and facilities are much better.”
Smeda, from Veldrift on the West Coast, joined the UWC Ladies Football Club in 2014 and has been part of the team’s resounding success over the years. She is a versatile footballer who can play confidently with both feet, and has been a regular in the senior national women’s team for a number of years.
“UWC has played a huge part in my footballing career; they've helped to mold me into the player I am today,” she said.