Thembi Kgatlana Saved South Africa After Refusing To Return Home From 2023 Women’s World Cup Despite Death of Three Relatives


Themi Kgatlana stole the spotlight after South Africa saw off Italy in a crunch 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final group games clash.

With just one point from the last two games, South Africa needed a win against Italy to seal a place in the next round of the tournament. It was a tricky tie between both sides who were on the opposite ends in the success ladder in the tournament.

African teams have struggled in FIFA World Cup tournaments – a fate that has been effectively contrasted with rate of success recorded by European teams in the tournament from qualification from the ground stage, progress through knockouts, and winning the trophy.

The Bayana Bayana had to battle against the odds to see off the Italians for a place in the knockout. Italy needed a draw while South Africa needed a win to seal round 16 ticket.

Caruso’s 11th minute spotkick shot the Italians into the lead but an own goal by Orsi in the 32nd minute canceled out the lead.

With less than 40% of the ball possession, South Africa weathered the odds and took a shock lead against the run of play in the 67th minute with Magaia on the scoresheet.

The goal saw the Bayana Bayana boost their hopes of joining Sweden in round 16 from Group G but the Italians restored parity and move ahead of the African side to the second place. They had 16 minutes to hold off the South Africans but stoppage-time strike by Thembi Kgatlana doomed Italy’s round 16 hopes and sent the Bayana Bayana to knockout stages.

The South African striker sealed a heroic and epic win for the Bayana Bayana, handing the team their first victory in the tournament and a round 16 ticket.

Thembi Kgatlana

Kgatlana’s goal was a jinx-breaker as the team progress to the knockout for the first time in the history of the tournament.

However, behind the gloss of the celebrations, Thembi Kgatlana revealed she had gotten a distress call from her family back home that three of her family members have died.

Such heartbreaking news would have led to her immediate withdrawal from South Africa World Cup squad as many thought. She would have returned to South Africa immediately.

Thembi said she refused to return home and was happy she added immense value to the team, scoring the winning goal to send the Bayana Bayana to their first FIFA Women’s World Cup knockout.

Thembi Kgatlana

Thembi admitted she got a lot of criticisms from South Africans following her refusal to return home from the tournament due to the sad news.

“We got a lot of criticism, but this is football,” Kgatlana told the media. “It’s about who wants it most.

“Over the last three weeks I’ve lost three family members. I could’ve went home but I chose to stay with my girls.”

The death of a family member in Africa is regarded as a sad incident which must draw the attention all the relatives. Hence, Thembi’s decision to stay with the Bayana Bayana in the World Cup, ignoring calls to return home will obviously not sit well with her other relatives.

However, helping South Africa seal a historic knockout ticket at the World Cup is a thing of national pride which will also resonates with a number of South African football fans although such may not be allowed to erode personal responsibility to one’s family.

In 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, Raheem Sterling was allowed to return home following reports of a break-in in his residence back in London. He rejoined the Three Lions squad and continue with his game. Most will argue Thembi Kgatlana should have race back home but she would have obviously miss the match and South Africa would have been knocked out of the tournament without her.

South Africa will play the Netherlands on Sunday with Thembi set to headline the attack for the team.

Do you think Thembi Kgatlana should have returned home?


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