Author: John AliuOften considered one of the most remarkable female footballers to represent the South African women’s national football team (Banyana Banyana), Khabo Judith Zitha’s contributions to the game are undeniable, both on and off the pitch.Having been part of one of the early generations of the Banyana Banyana squad, which also included the likes of Delisile Mbatha, Anna Modingoane, Portia Modise, Anna Monate and current Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis, Zitha has been fortunate to witness several generations of South African women’s footballers develop their skills and rise through the ranks.
During her eight years as a striker at Mamelodi Sundowns, Khabo played with boys at various age levels before she left. The prolific goalscorer delivered for both Club and Country

“My blood will always be yellow because Mamelodi Sundowns gave me the opportunity to play the game from the tender age of eight. Several of the Club’s icons, like, Trott Moloto and Daniel ‘Mambush’ Mudau knew me at the time and several others who are now late. So, wherever I find myself, my heart remains fond of Mamelodi Sundowns. It was a privilege to have represented this great Club and I am happy to see how the team has grown over the years,” Zitha stated.
The Banyana Banyana legend also highlighted what she believes sets Mamelodi Sundowns apart from other teams in South Africa.
“There is a very solid administrative structure at the Club and that is one of the main reasons why the First Team and the Ladies Team are successful. You can also see how they integrate their supporters into the Club with their inclusive and exciting activities. I especially appreciate how the First Team supports the Ladies, even appearing in promotional and marketing activities and community service initiatives together. When I speak with people from outside the country, they always talk about the professionalism of the Club both on and off the pitch,” Khabo added.

On the current Sundowns Ladies team, Zitha says, “They are the best in the country and Africa, as you have seen from their domestic and continental triumphs. They have put themselves on the map on several occasions. They have lots of exciting players and they are on the right track.”

When asked about which current Banyana Ba Style player she sees herself in, Khabo says, “I was a utility player with a different mindset. It is hard to single out anybody currently who I can liken to myself. I think that Tholake Refilwe is the player who comes closest to my style of play.”
Having faced so many opponents during her playing days, the former Sundowns striker mentioned the toughest national team opponents “It has to be Nigeria because they are so strong and athletic. During our time, we played against the likes of Mercy Akide and other physical players.”

Khabo, who also played for Soweto Ladies, highlighted what is perhaps one of the saddest moments of her professional career, “I will never forget how I lost a sports scholarship at the Alabama University in the United States. This happened in the early 2000s while I was in camp at Esselen Park Sports School of Excellence in Ekurhuleni, where we were camping for the Africa Cup of Nations. After my injury, I had to quit football and other girls took my place based on my recommendations. I became a coach afterward.”

Since retiring from football, Zitha has remained involved in the sport as a coach and administrator. She coached the Vaal University Ladies Team and has been working as a Prison Officer, involved in sports and recreation in prisons since 2008.

Currently, she leads the Department of Correctional Services Gauteng team and the Department of Correctional Services National team as the head coach. In 2022, she was named the Sports Woman of the Year 2022 by the Correctional Services at the Zonderwater Management Area.
She is motivated to see some of the inmates that she coaches go on to play in professional leagues. In her eyes, a professional football career provides a powerful alternative, a chance to channel their talents and energies into something constructive and fulfilling.

Having played and watched the game since she was a youngster, Khabo Zitha picked her Greatest of All Time (GOAT) male and female footballers.

“It has to be Cristiano Ronaldo. I watch him on YouTube; he is so talented and skillful. He has achieved a lot in football and his longevity as a player is remarkable. My favorite female footballer ever is Portia Modise for keeping women’s football going. She showcased her talents during our time and convinced everyone that women can play the game. She is one of the best to play in Africa. I am choosing her because her records speak for themselves,” Zitha said.

Though retired, the Banyana Banyana legend has continued to contribute to building women in football through her Khabo Zitha 11 Foundation (KZ11), where she constantly hosts soccer tournaments in the Mamelodi Community to engage women in mass participation and spot talent. She also formed a soccer team called Cullinan Ladies F.C. in February 2018, which later transitioned and relocated to Mamelodi 11 Stars Ladies F.C., functioning as one of the foundation's cornerstone pillars to date.
She is also a strong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality, using her platform to speak out against gender-based violence.