UWC rising football star Khanya “Zenny” Xesi may have been surprised by her call-up to Banyana Banyana, but she wasted no time to make her mark as she scored a goal which helped the team beat Madagascar 2-1 in the opening fixture of the 2018 Cosafa Women’s Championship yesterday.
In fact Xesi, a first-year student in natural medicine, was not meant to be in the senior national women’s team in the first place, but was roped in as a replacement after another player in the original squad was deemed unfit due to injury.
And when she received the news of her selection she could not believe it and asked her coach to double-check it.“I was more than surprised (by the news) and for some reason I asked my UWC coach (Nathan Peskin) to recheck it, and it was really happening,” Xesi commented. “For me it is a very big thing, as well as for the University. I'm grateful and feel privileged to have been given this huge opportunity. And a big thanks to the coach for having faith in me. It means a lot to me as a player and this will make me grow.”
About her first goal in the senior national team (she had been selected for junior national teams before), Xesi was ecstatic. “I’m very happy that I could score for the team,” Xesi commented from the Banyana Banyana camp in Port Elizabeth. “It was my first goal for Banyana Banyana and the moment keeps on replaying itself in my mind. It takes a team to do it and I’m very happy that the senior players (in the team) and the coaching staff gave me the courage and believed in me.”
Originally from Nyanga, with her roots in the small town of Engcobo in the Eastern Cape, Xesi joined the 20-strong member national team together with four other current and former UWC players. They are current goalkeeper Roxanne Barker and former goalkeeper Kaylin Swart (who is now with Menlo College in the US), mid-cum-striker Thembi Kgatlana (also in the US with Houston Dash), as well as Jermaine Seoposonwe who is signed up with JVW FC in Gauteng.
According to Xesi, discipline, respect, honesty and hard work are some of the elements she always takes with her from campus to the national camp. And she intends to continue absorbing as much as she can from Banyana Banyana in order to plough back into UWC, “so that we grow together as a team going forward”.
She says she chose to study at UWC “because I figured it is the perfect place to grow both in sport and academically”. She has already made her presence felt in the University’s sports arena, having played a key role in helping the side to do well in both the Safa Cape Town Coca-Cola Cup (UWC are in the quarterfinals) and the Sasol Women’s League in which Udubs are log leaders.
Xesi started playing football with boys from an early age and only switched to playing with girls when she joined Ikamva Ladies FC at the age of 14. Her role model, she says, has always been her mother who raised her alone as a single parent under difficult circumstances. “Sometimes she sacrificed her own happiness for me to be happy and grow in good health”.
The Cosafa tournament runs until 22 September, and Banyana Banyana’s next contest is against Botswana on 14 September.