21 June 2012
Striker Noko Matlou is one of the most recognisable faces of South Africa’s national women’s football team, Banyana Banyana, which will be competing in its first Olympic Games in London.
She is nicknamed “Beep Beep”, after the Road Runner found in cartoons, because of her speed. Matlou provides much more than speed alone, however. She has a strong physical presence and is an excellent finisher with well over 50 international goals to her name.
In 2009, Matlou became the first South African to win a major Confederation of African Football (Caf) award when she was named the Caf Women’s Footballer of the Year on the back of a superb performance in the African Women’s Championship, which she finished as joint-top goal scorer with six goals.
A year earlier, she had made a clean sweep of the awards at the Confederation of South African Football Association (Cosafa) awards.
“I won all the awards, from woman of the match to a top goal scorer,” she told SA Women’s Soccer in an interview in May 2012. Those awards should have come as no surprise; that’s what scoring 14 goals in only five matches will bring you.
She also underlined her motivation, adding: “I am always in competition with myself and beating my own records. I am going forward, growing and improving.”
Matlou recalled how she, against the wishes of her family, began playing football at the age of 14. “That’s when I discovered that it was my God-given talent,” she said.
‘Soccer is my life’
“I am very passionate about the sport. It fulfils me and identifies with what I am. The monetary reward is just a bonus. Soccer is my life.”
In 2011, she was named South Africa’s Sportswoman of the Year, chosen ahead of African record holder in the javelin, Sunette Viljoen, and the world’s all-time leading scorer in women’s international hockey, Pietie Coetzee.
Last year too, The Mail and Guardian included Matlou on its list of 200 Young South Africans, who were chosen, wrote M&G editor Nic Dawes, “for their impact, their creativity and the resonance of their values with the project of building the South Africa that we all want to live in: vibrant, prosperous, equitable, diverse and hungry for the challenges of growth and change.”
Matlou has been offered contracts to play overseas, but she has put that off until she completes her studies in transportation management at the University of Johannesburg.
A team player
In spite of her excellent goal scoring record, Matlou is very much a team player, which she made clear before Banyana faced Ethiopia in a second leg Olympic qualifier in September last year.
“Believe me, the statistics of goals I have scored for Banyana Banyana is furthest from my mind,” she told the South African Football Association.
“Getting to the Olympic Games is all the Banyana Banyana players are focused on, and our team sponsor Sasol and Safa must be thanked for allowing us to partake in more team camps and matches than in previous years.”
The goal of qualifying for the Olympic Games has since been achieved. Now it is up to Matlou and her team-mates to shine in London.
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