South Africa striker Thembi Kgatlana has discussed their 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations opener against Nigeria on Monday.
Banyana Banyana will kick-off their campaign with a Group C fixture against the Super Falcons at Moulay Hassan FUS. The other match in the group will see Burundi take on Botswana at the same venue.
“It’s good for women’s football because even outside Africa, we know a lot of people are going to be watching that match," Kgatlana said as quoted by BBC Sport Africa.
“We have a lot of players in Nigeria playing in Atleti and in Barcelona, and in South Africa, we have players in AC Milan and in a lot of big leagues, so it's going to be attracting a lot of attention.
“It’s going to create a good impact on women's football, not only in Africa but in the world as well. I think that's what we need for African women's football.”
The 26-year-old Kgatlana, who currently features for Spanish Primera Division club Atletico Madrid, has, however, admitted it will be a tough game for both teams.
“It's going to be a big bite to chew,” Kgatlana said when asked if South Africa can win it, adding: “We cannot avoid the fact that Nigeria are the reigning champions and they've experience when it comes to this tournament.
“Nigeria have proved to be the top team and I don't recall any other [African] country beating Nigeria, besides South Africa. To play the first match, everyone knows that that's going to be a highly-anticipated match.”
Kgatlana further explained why Nigeria were ahead of everyone in women's football citing the benefits of sending many players to the U17 and U20 World Cups.
“I think if a lot of countries can work on doing this, this model would be the perfect one to help senior teams,” added Kgatlana.
On the women’s league that was launched in South Africa in 2019, Kgatlana said: “Having the league is helping us because the problem we had before was that we had a couple of players playing in Europe - playing at a top-level and so being mentally-built - but then the struggle was the gap to the local players.
“The local-based players did not have proper training every day, did not play week in week out, so didn't know what it takes to play at the top level. For them now to have the league to travel every weekend and put a lot of emphasis on playing football builds mentality - I don't think we are in a place where we need to fear anything more.
“This is the most confident I've been in women's football in South Africa.”