They might have not featured for Banyana Banyana in the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Ghana and the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France but Letago Madiba and Rachel Sebati are unbothered and have been rather silently going about their business in Turkey becoming the spectators’ favourites.
“We have a fan that travels 4 hours from his home to watch us play at home in Gaziantep and he even travels to all our away games via flights, all on his own cost just to watch us play and take a photo with us after every game. It’s people like these that inspire us to continue what we are doing,” Madiba tells FARPost’s Tokelo Martin Mokhesi all the way from Turkey.
In a short space of time, the two South Africans have become key players for ALG Spor. Madiba has managed to find the back of the net 10 times and has 4 assists in 10 games while Sebati in her 7 games for the club has 2 assists to her name.
Madiba scored on her official debut for the Turkish side which allowed her to settle quickly. “I was comfortable when the official game day arrived. I was not nervous but excited to play.
Madiba, who started playing football as a 5-year-old girl in the streets of Arthurseat, Bushbuckridge is a skillful, deadly and pacey certified striker with an unbelievable goal-scoring record. The 28-year-old scored 82 goals in 54 games for Tshwane University of Technology Ladies (TUT) in the Sasol league in 2017 and 2018. Overall, she has 103 goals in 75 Sasol league and an additional 31 for TUT in various tournaments.
“My style is one-two touch football. I don’t like running with the ball despite having pace and being quite skillful. I believe my greatest asset is that I can read the game very well and run into those spaces. I am the main forward in the team, the coach expects me to use my pace to beat the opponents and create scoring opportunities.”
On the other hand, Sebati, who is a former TUT Ladies captain is a little bit different to her ‘adopted sister’. She describes herself as ‘Intelligent and a fast player. A bubbly Sebati said she believes that she has a great impact in the team in terms of her speed defensively and offensively.
She is one of the few players that you can count on when the chips are down. Sebati has always shown leadership qualities from a young age as she was also the captain of the South African under 17 at the 2010 Fifa U-17 Women’s World Cup.
The 26-year-old hails from the Limpopo province. She was part of the Banyana Banyana side that clinched the Cosafa Cup back-to-back.
With their impressive performances for ALG Spor, Madiba and Sebati have become the fans favourites in the Turkey Women’s League. “It is always exciting to have fans ask for pictures and signatures after our games,” said Madiba.
“It makes me feel confident and more determined to perform in each game. I think also our complexion helps us to stand out in the games and more eyes are on us haha but it warms my heart that so many people are excited to watch us play and tell us we are their favourites.”
Madiba attributes her success at ALG Sport to the fact that she changed her mindset when she landed in Turkey.
“I changed my mindset when I arrived in Europe. I said to myself I would focus on myself and my abilities; know my talent and strengths and ignore the negatives. I told myself God has a plan for me, and I need to trust the process. The fans here have been great and remind me weekly that I am good enough to be here.
“My pace and skillful nature are things that I bring into the team that is unique and beneficial to the team and the fact I am a goal poacher.”
Life in Turkey
“I have settled well in Gaziantep. The people in the city are extremely friendly and welcoming. We met a lady at the local shop and have become very close to her family and kids. They are our family away from home which makes it easier for us. In general, the community is wonderful, the food is great, Gaziantep is one of the biggest gastronomy cities of the world. Our teammates and coach are wonderful and help us to settle in well too. We have a translator but we are also learning Turkish,” said Madiba.
“Oh goodness, were do I start? Well life in Turkey is awesome I mean it is a blessing from God,”said Sebati.
“I wouldn’t take it for granted. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Him. Pardon, I would never answer any of my interviews without mentioning how awesome God is for placing me at the right place at the right time. I am enjoying every moment I spend in Turkey.
“The city that we live in is called Gaziantep and I should mention that it is mostly well-known for its foodies and many travellers come here solely for the food. That should already tell you what I like. Alas, I need to be careful of what I feed this body as I’m an elite sport woman. Anyways enough with the city,” added Sebati.
Growth and Progress
Moving away from their comfort zone in South Africa, Madiba and her partner in crime Sebati have grown and improved their game by competing in the competitive Belarusian Women’s Premier League, Turkish Women’s First Football league and the Champions League.
The Limpopo born star said her ‘football intelligence’ was not challenged enough in South Africa. “Oh yes of course, most definitely I have grown so much. Well, personally I think Minsk FC was an eye-opener for me. I thought I knew the basics of football and all the rules and tactics of the sport, but little did I know that I had so much to add on my present knowledge. Little did I know that my football intelligence was not challenged enough.
“I believe that I am an improved version of myself, same player, same style of play, same everything, just an improved version. What I am trying to emphasize is that I play the very same way, playing abroad has just enlarged my football intelligence in terms of reading of the game and mastering the tactics of football. I will not go deep into details.
The duo’s relationship
The two former Red Machine (TUT Ladies) stars were ‘distant friends’ before they signed for ZFK Minsk FC in Belarus and ALG Spor. Sebati said since she started playing alongside Madiba at Minsk their relationship on and off the field has been tremendously awesome.
“We gel very well; I’m guessing it is because of our personalities. We played together at TUT, tournaments and some of the competitions. Nothing ever goes wrong because we both prioritise God,” said Sebati.
“We keep the positive vibe going and we never ever let anyone bring us down. Well, of course, we are human we would sometimes have our off days; thus, one would be there for the other. God did not bring us together for futilely. Surely, I play better when she is on the field. I mean, we played together for too long not to understand each other.
Madiba only had good things to say about her teammate. “Rachel is a great player, wonderful at best and when the opportunity at Minsk came up and the team needed a midfielder, Nadia Kroll, our manager did not hesitate to suggest Rachel. I’m thankful I have her, we have become so close in this process together and I wish we continue to play together for more seasons as we understand each other so well on and off the field.”
Champions League Football
Both Madiba and Sebati have had a taste of the Uefa Women’s Champions League football in the colours of ZFK Minsk where they signed their first-ever professional contracts.
“I think that is the ultimate dream for many footballers is to play Champions League. We watch it on television never thinking we would be there. It was a great experience, something that I will forever be grateful for. The standard is high and professional, ” said Madiba.
“Our team took it very seriously and we prepared well which can be seen in the results and by the team qualifying for the round of 16 only to be eliminated by Barcelona. Thankfully, we were able to sign with ALG Spor immediately after leaving Minsk. It was all through God who made it possible, my manager Nadia Kroll had contacts which made it possible,” stated Madiba.
Sebati labels ALG Spor as “one of the good teams” she has played for. “The team is very competitive, and one can see the hard work even during training sessions. The most thing that I love about ALG Spor is that it’s not just a team made of players from different cities and countries with different cultures.
“ALG Spor is a family striving to build a very strong cross-cultural team. Thus, we are more than just a team, our bond is just almost unbreakable on and off the field.
“My goals at ALG Spor this season is just to play full-time at any position, win all the games and help the team qualify for UEFA Champions League,” stated Sebati.
While Madiba’s only desire is to enjoy football. “That’s when I perform at my best. I desire to inspire more people as I believe this is where my greatest ability lies. Short term goal, I’d love to help the team win the league for the first time which will qualify us to compete in the Champions League for their first time as ALG Spor.
The prolific striker’s career is injury prone and at some point, was out of action for some time. However, Madiba doesn’t think her injuries have hindered her progress in any way as she is banging in the goals left, right and centre.
“No, I do not think my injury hindered my progress. I was out for a year and a half but when I returned to play it came naturally.
“I tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and meniscus while on camp with the National Team in 2014. I had to undergo 2 surgeries. It was a tough time, but I trusted the process and have no regrets or what-ifs. If anything, I believe the injury motivated me to work harder.”
The ALG Sport duo might have only played a handful of games for Banyana Banyana but Madiba said her focus is just to enjoy her football in Europe. “As much as it’s every player’s dream to play for their national teams, I do not base my success off which jersey I wear.
“I am content with where I am playing, and I believe I’ve been a consistent goal scorer in various leagues and tournaments, and it is really up to the coach to decide if my play is suited in her team or not.
Getting to know Madiba-Sebati
Madiba is a God-fearing woman who loves her family. “I have hopes and dreams, I have a strong mentality which does not allow many things to bother me. I am a serious person when you first meet me, many people say I am unapproachable. But those few who know me, know the crazy side to me. I love to laugh and joke and believe I am a good motivator.”
While Sebati is a task-oriented individual and a natural hard worker. Throw any task her way and she will give you 110 per cent. “I would love to think that Rachel Raesetja Sebati is just a phenomenal woman who loves God.
Sebati is an introvert mostly but an extrovert when she is around people, she is mostly close to. She can be funny when she is thrilled. She is caring, loving and all the positive words you can think of. She loves nature, she is intrigued by the human spirit which might be a bit weird to think of. Lastly, she loves football, that must be obvious.”
The pair’s message to young girls in South Africa with dreams of playing football in Europe is to have confidence in their own abilities. “The most important thing is to believe in yourself. Never allow anyone to dictate your future. It may seem cliché, but never give up on your dreams,” concluded Madiba.
By Tokelo Martin Mokhesi