Heading to the USA to fulfil her dreams – on and off the pitch
Amogelang Motau is an affable young professional. She carries herself with the kind of assuredness and grace that is fitting of a former junior national team captain. Her friendliness belies her stature as one of the country’s rising stars. In June she made the effort to meet KICK OFF in Johannesburg to participate in one of the magazine’s most innovative features yet, a training routine with popular soap star Hlubi Mboya. She went a step further and shared with us her journey into footballing stardom, which has seen her captain the SA Under-20 and Under-17 teams. Her humble beginnings notwithstanding, she has pulled herself up from the proverbial dusty streets of Limpopo to Oral Roberts University in the USA.
The USA opportunity, she says,
came about through a referral of friend Nelly Mamabolo, who plays for Oral Roberts University. “They asked her [Mamabolo] about a player they might sign from South Africa and she recommended me, using my track record of having represented the national team at various levels from Under-17 and Under-20 to the national team,” says Motau. “I sent them my clips of me playing and they were impressed and gave me a scholarship.” Motau can play as a midfield No. 8 or No. 10, even on the wing, and her biggest strength is her versatility in various roles inside the engine room. Her rise to the top of the game
came about in similar fashion as most women footballers in that she had to rough it out against boys in her early years of her development before finding a girls’ team. “The funny thing is that nobody in my family plays football,” Motau says. “I have two brothers and one sister and both my brothers aren’t into football at all. “The only time they watch is when I’m playing. But I grew up in a neighbourhood where my neighbours were predominantly boys, especially ones my age. So they became my friends. “As we started playing I just started getting better than them. Just by playing everyday after school, I got so much better.”
An entry into the prestigious
University of Pretoria High Performance Centre ( Tuks HPC) was the springboard she needed to take her career to the next level. “I was introduced to women’s football at the age of around 10,” the 20-year-old says. Someone saw me playing and asked me to join their team, Kanatla FC, who played in the Absa Women’s League – a development tournament. “At around 11 or 12 I got introduced to the Sasol League when Kanatla moved to Polokwane. From there I went to Johannesburg for trials and ended up at the Tuks HPC. “I am the footballer I am today because of Cheryl Botes. She coached me from a young age, at the HPC, and taught me to leave all the bad habits.”
USA has produced some of the
most notable and talented women’s footballers the world has ever seen such as Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach. They continue to be up there with the favourites whenever the Fifa Women’s World Cup comes around. And having South African players ply their trade there could have the same effect for the country’s women’s football development as Europe has in the men’s. She says: “I know I’ve made it into the Banyana team but for me it is not the maximum of my success. “It was a goal that I set from a young age. But I’m still working towards bigger goals. One of those goals is to captain Banyana. “The other is going to the World Cup. I failed so many times to do so with the junior national teams and I would love to experience it.”
In 2016, at just 19, she was part of
the national team squad that went to Yaoundé, Cameroon, where South Africa lost the third-place playoff to Ghana 1-0 after losing by the same narrow margin to Nigeria in the semifinals. In spite of falling just short of an historic achievement, Motau said being part of the tournament was a godsend for her. “I probably learnt more from the weeks spent there than I did in the five years at HPC,” she says. “It was life-changing, not only on the field. I learnt about team dynamics and I got to know how things are done at the highest level. Even though I didn’t get a lot of game time I learnt a whole lot “I was watching everything that Janine [ Van Wyk] was doing and what the other experienced players were doing. The intensity at international level is so much higher [than domestic level] but in Cameroon I got better in terms of adjustment. I was a much better player by the end of the tournament.”
“THE FUNNY THING IS THAT NOBODY IN MY FAMILY PLAYS FOOTBALL.”
(Main) Amogelang Motau in Johannesburg a few months before her dream move to the Oral Roberts University in the USA.