14 November 2018 – Just over a month ago, Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies defender, Tiisetso Makhubela could not have imagined that things would turn out this way for her.
Born in April 1997, she is the second youngest in the current Banyana Banyana squad – just a year older than Linda Motlhalo.
Makhubela’s football journey started in 2008 when she played the game for fun against boys in her hometown, Mabopane/Soshanguve.
She is the only one in her family that plays the game and says she takes after her father who was a prolific player back in the days – even though he never played in the professional ranks.
“While having a kick-about with the boys, I was spotted by former Banyana Banyana player Lebogang Mabatle when I featured in a seven-a-side tournament for a club called Torino. She then recruited me to join Hallelujah Zebra Force, and from there things started going in the right direction for me,” says Makhubela.
“Then in 2013 I attended trials for the South African U-17 Women’s National Team and was one of those selected to the squad. I played for Bantwana against Zambia – we lost that match at home and in the away leg we drew 3-3.”
So inspiring was her performance that she was promoted to the U-20 Women’s National Team and that is where she faced Nigeria – she played the home leg but did not travel for the away leg.
Earlier this year, while still at Zebra Force, they took on Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies and she caught the eye of the opposition coach who brought her to Chloorkop.
It was while playing for the Brazilians that head coach of Banyana Banyana Desiree Ellis fell in love with her style of play during one of the Sasol League Roadshows, where she played against TUT-PTA. Makhubela was invited to a training camp – leading to her selection in the final squad for the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations tournament that is set to kick off on Saturday, 17 November in Ghana.
“I feel very happy to be here. It is a great honour to be sharing the dressing room with some of the players I have always looked up to, players I only knew as opposition in the Sasol League – the likes of Janine van Wyk, Refiloe Jane, Nothando Vilakazi and Nompumelelo Nyandeni,” said an excited Makhubela.
“The players have helped me to settle in quickly as they motivate me a lot, and are constantly offering advice. I feel blessed to be in their company and they help me improve with every training session. They really contribute to my growth as a player.”
Bastos, as she is called in the team, says she had to make some adjustments in terms of training as the level was very different to what she was accustomed to.
“It took some serious adjusting to get to grips with the training sessions. Here you have to bring your A-game all the time or you will struggle. You have to be quick on the ball to survive, as they don’t give you breathing space. But so far I have adapted and am coping very well. I am starting to enjoy myself,” added Makhubela.
She hasn’t rested on her laurels, however, and says that her first match for Banyana Banyana in the international friendly this past Sunday (11 November) in Accra, was very scary. She came in for Van Wyk in the second half.
“When the coach told me to go warm-up I had butterflies in my stomach. And as I was getting ready to come on, I had to calm myself down and say now is the time, I have to be ready. In fact, even after playing that match I am still scared ahead of the tournament – my first major tournament in my football career,” said Makhubela.
“As the kick-off approaches, my heart is racing very fast but I am looking forward to the challenge. Given a chance I will do the best I can to help the team win, and my greatest wish is to play some part in this tournament. We can’t wait for our first match on Sunday (against Nigeria). Without doubt it is going to be tough, but I am confident we will do well because there is a lot determination all round in the team. Qualifying for the World Cup would be my biggest achievement.”
TIISETSO MAKHUBELA FACT FILE:
Date of Birth: 24 April 1997
Place of Birth: Pretoria, Gauteng
Club: Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies
Previous Clubs: Hallelujah Zebra Force, Pull Together
Caps: 1 (debut vs Ghana, 11 November 2018)
Honours: 2014 & 2016 U-20 Zone Six Games Champion, former U-17 International