U.S Kicks

Tshepo Kehimile
TRAILBLAZER: A star of the women's game
Female footy star flying high in America

Mention local players making it big in America and football fans will automatically think of the legendary, Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane.

Followers of the ladies game, however, might respond differently.

That’s because for the last three years, national team winger, Thuto Ramafifi has been making waves of her own in the States.

The 29-year-old turns out for Georgia-based Albany State University in the College Leagues and has impressed with her pace and power.

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Despite her success on the pitch, the trailblazing talent is undecided whether she will pursue a professional career or not when she graduates in a year’s time.

“I’m yet to complete my Degree and I’ll decide what I want to do after school, if I want to play pro or whether I want to go out into the business world and start working,” explains Ramafifi in an exclusive interview with Voice Sport this week.

Although she is uncertain of her next move in football, the Molepolole native admits there is still much she wants to accomplish before she retires.

“Age is no longer on my side but I still want to achieve a lot of things. I want to be remembered and be a role model to many youngsters back home as there are so many opportunities to explore in the States!”

Reflecting on her time in the U.S, where she has been based since 2018, Ramafifi, who now has a distinctive American accent, says, “The US has one of the best programmes in women’s football.

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US Kicks

“Back home we have the talent but not the resources. We’re still developing and there’s a big gap!”

While her all-around game has improved drastically in the States, where she notes coaches encourage players to express themselves on the pitch without fear, Ramafifi admits it has not been easy.

“For me to improve, I had to develop a new mindset, knowing that I’m now exposed to new ideas, a new environment and I’m dealing with new people.”

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For those looking to follow in her distinguished footsteps, the overseas export advises ‘thinking outside the box and getting out of the comfort zone.’

“They’ve got to take risks and apply,” she says, adding she took a risk, applied to Sallum University (West Virginia) where she was eventually accepted.

Ramafifi would later transfer to Albany as she sought a centre that had more opportunities to do school, part-time work, and football.

“This decision paid dividends as my way of life improved drastically!” she reflects simply.

Ramafifi, who last turned out for the national team in 2019, further tells Voice Sport her American dream could have started much earlier if she had been brave enough to accept a previous offer.

“I had an offer in 2010 but I was way too scared to leave my country, more so because I was still so young. America seemed way too far away!”

Older, wiser, and braver, Ramafifi has since thrived in the ultra-competitive College League, a breeding ground for future stars of the women’s game.

Modelling her style of play on her hero, Portuguese icon, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ramafifi is a born entertainer when she puts on her boots.

“I grew up watching Ronaldo, the man is unbelievable and he has achieved a lot in football through hard work and dedication, he is my role model. I can play anywhere in the attacking area but I like to play as a number 11 because I have more room to dribble inside and try a shot at goal or get an assist.”

One lady who has fond memories of Ramafifi’s exploits on the pitch is her former Double Action teammate, current Mares captain, Bonang Otlhagile.

“Thuto was one of our best players at Double Action. She worked really hard on the pitch, her love for football was extreme as she could even play while she is injured. Her being in the US at the moment has improved her game drastically, she is more mature in her play,” reflects Olthagile, who is confident Ramafifi’s American achievement will motivate the next generation to follow suit and reach for the stars…. and stripes!

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