Melinda Kgadiete celebrating in the rain© Sydney Mahlangu - BackpagePixTHE JOURNEY OF MELINDA KGADIETE
Author:  John AliuThe popular saying ‘Tough times never last, but tough people do’ is always a constant reminder that there is more to present-day soccer stars than meets the eye. Up until the age of 20 years, Colombian striker Carlos Bacca worked as a bus driver’s assistant and also a fisherman. Argentina’s Angel Di Maria worked at a coal mine during his tender years, while Gabriel Jesus once painted the streets of Brazil to make money. Indeed, it is never too late to start over and go after your desired dreams!Behind the glory, enjoyed by successful footballers today, there are always stories to tell. Some of these present stars have experienced tribulations from an early age. In some cases, whilst growing up in the streets, the future players were working around the clock to earn their livelihood. Oftentimes, the only thing that gave them comfort was kicking that magical spherical object made from ‘pigskin’ and ‘cowhide’ with their barefoot. Simply put, life was not handed to them on a silver platter; they had to continuously grind to reach their dreams. 

Thanks to sheer determination and perseverance, one footballer who broke the chain of her early years of struggle is Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies striker Melinda “Tsetse” Kgadiete.

The Digital Magazine Crew linked up with the Banyana Ba Style and South African Women’s National Team forward as she recalled the struggles that she faced while growing up in her neighbourhood.
Melinda Kgadiete during the 2021 Total Energies CAF Womens Champions League COSAFA Qualifier final match© Samuel Shivambu - BackpagePix“I grew up in Mdantsane, a township on the outskirts of East London in the Eastern Cape, which was one of the toughest experiences of my life.” Kgadiete continued to describe her life growing up, “During my tender age, surviving was challenging but I was fortunate that my parents were very supportive.”

The 29-year-old attacker excitedly explained how she fell in love with the game during her formative years, “My love for soccer came from my father who was very passionate about the sport and played for the local team. My first taste of organized football came when I was just nine years old. At the time, I played for a club named ‘Future Stars’, and remarkably, I was the only female player on the team.” She continued to express how awkward it was on game days, “I had to get dressed on my own. This often made them sceptical about me, but I was a very good player and my coach always ensured that I got the respect that I deserved.”
Melinda Celebrating with Teammates after a goal© Gavin Barker - BackpagePixThe Sundowns attacker is often regarded as one of the least argumentative towards the referees, “Earlier in my career, I was doubling up as a match official to boost my knowledge of the game. This happened when I was still playing for a club named Birmingham City Ladies in the Sasol League. As a match official, I spent time studying the game and I got to appreciate the role they played on match days. The training sessions were intensive and heavily demanding,” the forward stated.

The soft-spoken player, who joined Masandawana at the start of the treble-winning season after a great spell with Siwelele Ladies, described what it means to play for The Brazilians. “Joining Mamelodi Sundowns has been a great experience because the club is huge both on and off the pitch,” Melinda said. “Considering what I have been through, I feel blessed to be handed the opportunity to play for such an illustrious club. The brand is synonymous with excellence and this shows in the way we dominate games and win trophies. As a team, we work hard daily because there is a lot that we want to achieve. One of the reasons I joined the team was to win accolades and the club has afforded me that opportunity,” Kgadiete confidently declared.
Kgadiete celebrating after the final match at the COSAFA Qualifier final Match© Samuel Shivambu - BackpagePixMelinda has enjoyed a riveting season and has made a mark in four different competitions for the club and country. The goal-poacher dazzled at the COSAFA qualifiers for the CAF Women’s Champions League where she finished as the top goal scorer with 5 goals. She was also part of the South African Women's National Football team who clinched the Aisha Buhari Women's Invitational Tournament in Lagos, Nigeria.

Melinda has also stamped her authority in the Hollywoodbets Super League and the inaugural edition of the CAF Women's Champions League that took place in November in Egypt. “These last few months have been one massive journey as I featured in several tournaments for both Sundowns and Banyana Banyana. It has been a wonderful learning curve for me and my teammates as we have gained so much knowledge and experience,” said the Sundowns striker. “This will come in handy in boosting our overall understanding of the game.”

She went on to express her excitement in winning the CAF Women’s Champions League, “The win in Egypt boosted our confidence. It shows that if we can dominate the entire continent, it means that we are more than capable of showing our class whenever we are pitted against anyone. Right now, our long-term target is to compete at the proposed FIFA Women’s Club World Cup. We feel unstoppable at the moment, but we are going to keep working harder every day in training to avoid any form of complacency.”

Although the Mdantsane-born attacker is often praised for her ability to put the ball in the back of the net, there is a lighter side to her personality off the field.
Quick facts you never knew about Kgadiete
She is a big fan of Cricket: “I used to play the game back in the day using the rubbish bin as wickets. Former South African professional cricketer Makhaya Ntini, who is also from the Eastern Cape, is one of the guys who broke barriers in the sport. He was proof that if you believe you can do it, then you could indeed achieve it. I would rate myself as a 6/10 in terms of batting and fielding.”
She started as a match official: “I attended the same training sessions with some notable South African referees such as Akhona Makalima (FIFA-licensed) and Athenkosi Ndongeni. I am proud to see what they have achieved.”
She loves take-outs: “Honestly, I love to eat out most of the time. I love to explore delicacies on the menu and sometimes I go with my mood.”
Singing is not her strength: “I simply cannot sing to save my life. However, there are some of my teammates who aspire to be on the same level as legends such as Beyoncé and Mariah Carey. In the dressing room, both Karabo Makhurubetshi and Bambanani Mbane have very high pitches while Andile ‘Sticks’ Dlamini does wonders with her voice. ‘Sticks’ also has a song titled ‘Ngicela Kukhanye’”
She loves listening to music: “I love listening to good music. If load shedding were to happen and I needed a proper playlist to keep me entertained, I would immediately go for Lelona Daweti’s phone. She is regularly keeping up with the latest hit songs from Amapiano to Hip Hop. Daweti knows her stuff and her music will distract me till the electricity is back.”
There is no place like home: “My favourite place of all time is East London. I have travelled to various countries but there is something special about being home.”
Keen on fashion: “I love my fashion and my teammates do as well. If the Fashion Police were to raid Chloorkop, we will walk free. This is because we know how to drip swag! Leading our crew would be Oratile Mokwena, Bambanani Mbane and Thembelihle Masibi.”
On being the first to score at three different competitions for Sundowns: “It was an incredible feeling being the first to score in all three competitions; Hollywoodbets Super League, COSAFA qualifiers and the CAF Women’s Champions League in Egypt.”
In her first season with the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team, Melinda already has a string of wonderful accomplishments and trophies to be proud of. Her debut season with the club has seen her make a return to the Banyana Banyana set-up and Kgadiete will be hoping to build on the successful campaign she has had.
2021 will forever be remembered as an incredible year for the Sundowns Striker and the Yellow Nation is in full support of her success in 2022 and beyond!