Growing up on the dusty streets of Francistown, Sedilame Bosija never imagined football would play such a prominent part in her life.
Never in her wildest dreams did Bosija think that at the age of 19, she would make history by becoming the first local female player to be signed up by a South African side.
However, that’s exactly what happened, when, in 2017, Bloemfontein Celtic ladies came calling for the talented goalkeeper’s services.
“I grew up playing football in the streets with the neighborhood boys. I thoroughly enjoyed myself so much so that we would spend hours playing. At the time it was just for fun. It was only much later, at the suggestion of a friend, that I joined the school team,” recalled the 20-year-old Bosija, who says she soon realised she had a natural talent for the game.
“Though I enjoyed school, it was time spent playing that I felt at my best and so I played even more. I was in Standard 3,” revealed the former Monarch Primary School pupil.
Bosija played so well that she gained the confidence of coaches who paved the way for her flourishing football career.
She was selected to play for the under 13 national team and got to travel, an additional bonus which further cemented her love for the sport.
By the time she was in Senior Secondary School she was a football star.
Full of excitement, Bosija vividly recalls getting call-ups to try out for the national Under 13, 15 and 17 teams.
“Every game had its merits and when one is recognised for the hard work they put in, it can only push one to be even better,” adds an enthusiastic Bosija, who credits her prowess for the game to being humble and disciplined.
“Football is a team sport hence one must be a team player. It is also not so much how good one is but rather how well one is able to take guidance from coaches and not just be good on the field but also out of the field!”
Although Bosija has many happy football-related memories following extensive travel to different countries, it is a game against Lesotho Women’s senior team that she remembers with especial fondness.
Bosija’s heroics in that game would change the course of her life.
“We played our hearts out and it really was a good game. Upon our return, I was elated to receive a call from the Bloemfontein Celtics coach, who had been in the stands watching the game. He indicated how good I was and their interest to recruit me. Of course I was a little shocked but excited nonetheless.”
The preparations for the move were not easy, as Bosija readily admits, “I had never lived away from home and it was scary thinking about leaving what was so familiar to me.”
Indeed, slightly overawed at the unexpected opportunity of a lifetime, Bosija considered not going.
“I thought of my family and friends and even contemplated not taking up the offer but my mother, who has been a pillar of strength throughout, was more than encouraging.
“The excitement of the offer was also reiterated by my former club members and representatives of the Botswana Football Association (BFA). I felt at ease and ready to take on the new assignment.”
Settling in South Africa, Bosija had to acclimatize to an entirely foreign environment.
“I knew I was good but when moving to a completely new place, surrounded by other equally great players, one can question themselves. Luckily my teammates were all supportive and received me with open arms. I also had to grow up and be more responsible.”
Bosija notes that although football is followed by millions of fans around the globe, there is still a shortage of female role models.
“We have great players but the attention is not as widespread as it is for the male players. This may be one of the reasons girls don’t grow up knowing they can make the decision not to just be spectators but also play the sport professionally,” reflects the young women, who herself has become a symbol of hope to female footballers in Botswana.
Indeed, when her schedule permits, Bosija enjoys playing in her home country and sharing her experience to encourage others to take the sport seriously.
“If you want to see yourself pursuing your dream, work hard and put your heart in it then you can get it. It is possible!” she insists passionately – and she should know, she’s living proof that it can happen!
Apart from playing football, Bosija admits to her love for reading and indulging in Play Station.
“It’s really not cheating on my love for football but affords me a chance to relax and dream of the next big game,” she laughs, before ending with a shy smile, “My favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo and meeting him would be my dreams come true!”