The meteoric rise of Linda Motlhalo

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On the 1st of January 1998 a midfielder that has risen to become one of the best players to come out of Mzansi’s shores was born. Her name is Linda Motlhalo, the South African dribbling wizard.

It isn’t a surprise that the attacking midfielder has reached stardom because she comes from a family with good footballing genes with her father Johannes Motlhalo a local football star in Gauteng where Motlhalo started her journey. Although her father never made it professionally he had a big impact on how his child’s future would unfold.

Her father’s brother Joseph Motlhalo was a goalkeeper for Kaizer Chiefs between 1970 and 1985.

While going through school at Tuks Sport High School she was also recruited to be part of the South African High Performance Centre in Pretoria.

The 22-year-old performed so well while playing for the High Performance Centre she was called up to the South African U-20 national team including playing at the U-20 Women’s championships. Later she earned herself her first call up to Banyana Banyana in October 2015 after her best friend Thembi Kgatlana was ruled out due to injury.

The midfielder has made a total of 46 appearances for the national team scoring 9 goals in the process. These caps include those earned while playing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, 2016 Africa Women Cup of Nations, 2018 AWCON and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup which was South Africa’s first ever participation in the global showpiece. Unfortunately, Banyana were knocked out in the group stage of the competition.

In club football she joined Berdfordview-based JVW FC started by her national team captain, Janine Van Wyk. Motlhlalo’s exploits with JVW caught the eye of former Banyana coach Vera Pauw who roped her into the American National Women’s Soccer League in 2018 February.

Motlhalo went abroad with compatriots Thembi Kgatlana and Janine Van Wyk. She made 21 NWSL appearances for Houston Dash scoring that famous goal which she celebrated with a ‘Thuso Phala dance’.

In early 2019 the midfielder parted ways with Dash, but it didn’t take long for her to find a new home with Chinese Women’s Super League side Beijing BG Phoenix snatching her on a one-year-deal in February 2019 alongside her now ‘Twin’ Thembi Kgatlana who had also been released by Dash.

At Phoenix, she played all the league games as the club finished fifth in the overall league standings last season. It is the same season that ‘Randfontein Ronaldinho’ scored a goal to help Phoenix reach the Chinese Women’s Championship semifinal.

At the end of the season the Banyana international opted to move to Europe to challenge herself and joined Swedish giants Djurgaden DFF on a two-year-deal that runs until 2022.

On her debut for the club she scored two goals after coming on as a second half substitute against rivals AIK.

The 22-year-old is a regular at Djurgaden having made 11 appearances in the league so far. On Sunday Djurgaden take on Vittsjo in the league and the South African is expected to be one of the first names in coach Joel Riddez’s team sheet.

By Prince Sobayeni 

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