Both players were part of the team that recently participated in the 21st edition of the Engen Knockout Challenge, which is widely recognized as one of the most prestigious football development tournaments in South Africa.
Despite competing against higher age grades and facing established Hollywoodbets Super League and SASOL league stars, the young Masandawana girls finished in an impressive fourth place.
14-year-old Munashe Mugwara fondly reflects on what that experience meant for her. She said, “It was my first time playing in the tournament and I found myself facing U-20s and some of the talented ladies from the Hollywoodbets Super League. Competing against opponents who were physically stronger than me was challenging, but it provided a great opportunity for improvement.”
The Johannesburg-born right-back who also operates on the left wing described how being part of the Sundowns youth program has developed her.
“The club ensures that we are regularly tested by organizing mini-matches against each other and arranging friendlies with more competitive teams, such as the first teams of other clubs. This constant challenge has pushed me to improve my game and develop a deeper understanding of the game on the pitch. Additionally, the trip to Portugal was a valuable experience that further enhanced my understanding of international football and exposed me to different playing styles and tactics,” She added.
Munashe also shared what it meant to train with the Ladies’ team led by Coach Jerry Tshabalala, expressing, “I have practiced with the first team and I can say it’s different there. The work is much quicker and the intensity is always high. I love challenges and practicing with the first team keeps me on my toes. The experience has had a positive impact on me because now I know how they operate and the winning mentality at that level has rubbed off on me.”
Mugwara was also delighted with the performances of several members of the Sundowns Ladies team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. “I’m truly inspired by Banyana Banyana’s performance, especially as they made it to the Round of 16 for the first time in their history. It’s a great achievement and it motivates me. Watching them represent our country with such passion gives me hope that with hard work and dedication, I too can follow in their footsteps and realize my dream of playing on the world stage someday.”
14-year-old Katlego Malebane, who captained the team at the Engen Knockout Challenge, also shared the valuable lessons she gained in the past few months.
“It was a great honor to captain the team at the Engen tournament. I felt like I was responsible for leading and guiding my teammates and that experience improved me as a player and as a leader. Also, the club made it possible for us to travel to Portugal, which allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of the game and learn from top-level players and coaches. The training sessions have been great and I am excited about my development at Sundowns,” said Malebane.
Katlego, who featured as one of the ball girls at the final of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations that South Africa won last year, highlighted what training with the first team has meant to her. “It’s an incredible experience to train with my role models and learn so much from them. The high intensity of the training sessions has also helped elevate my level in football. I am grateful for the opportunity and would like to thank Coach Jerry for believing in me and giving me this chance to grow as a player.”
A crucial aspect of the youth system at Masandawana is prioritizing the education of youngsters alongside their football training. She emphasizes, “The club has been very supportive in helping us achieve our goals of playing football and continuing our studies. With the help of my parents, I have learned effective time management, especially in balancing my school and football commitments. I’m grateful for the support I receive from the club and my family in pursuing my dreams both on and off the field.”
Having closely followed South Africa’s remarkable journey at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Limpopo-born youngster feels inspired. She adds “I am very inspired to see Banyana making it to the Round of 16 and it gives me the encouragement and determination to work harder towards my goal which is to win the FIFA World Cup someday. Watching the talented players representing South Africa on the big stage motivates me to push my limits and never settle for anything less than greatness.” MUNASHEMANGWESOME KEY FACTS ABOUT MUNASHE MANGWEDate of birth: 06 August 2009 in Johannesburg, Gauteng Favorite international club: Chelsea Role model(s): Chuene Morifi and Hildah Magaia (both wear number 8 like me and I aspire to represent that jersey well one day). I also like Chelsea’s Lauren James for her playing style and composure. Favorite male footballer: Admires Mason Mount for his technique on the ball and confidence in taking free-kicks. Favorite sports outside football: Netball Selected Achievements:Scored the winning goal in the final as Sundowns Under-16 girls clinched the Volkswagen (VW) Vaya Cup last year. Named the top goal scorer of the tournament at the VW Vaya Cup. Adjudged as one of the best players at the Bill Stewart Tournament by the Johannesburg Primary Schools Football Association earlier this year. Named the Player of the Tournament at the Discovery Girls Football Festival held earlier this year. KATLEGOMALEBANESOME KEY FACTS ABOUT KATLEGO MALEBANEDate of birth: 22 January 2009 in Moletji, Limpopo Favorite international club: Barcelona and Chelsea women’s teams Role model(s): Linda Caicedo, a Colombian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Real Madrid Femenino and the Colombia women’s national team. She was the first teenager to score at the 2023 World Cup in Australia & New Zealand. Favorite sports outside football: Katlego excels in athletics and she is currently one of the best U-14 athletes in her school, participating in long-distance, Cross country and short-distance race events. She has also qualified for Nationals in the 800m and reached the Provincial level in cross country. Selected Achievements:Captained the Masandawana young girls at the recent Engen Knockout Challenge. Named Player of the Tournament at the inaugural edition of the Volkswagen (VW) Vaya Cup soccer tournament at the University of Witwatersrand last year. After a busy first half of the year, both Munashe Mugwara and Katlego Malebane will aim to continue their career development at Mamelodi Sundowns and, of course, take things one step at a time.
The development of Coaches Andisiwe Mgcoyi, Rhoda Mulaudzi, Zanele Nhlapho and Andile Dlamini underscores the club’s commitment to promoting leadership in women’s soccer, exemplifying their dedication to supporting and empowering women in the sport. Consequently, the emergence of talented players like Munashe Mugwara and Katlego Malebane provides just a glimpse of the depth of young talent within the club, highlighting their potential for future success and growth.
READ MORE LIKE THIS
Masandawana Men and Ladies aim for African excellence with CAF Nominations
MASANDAWANA MENS’ AND WOMEN’S TEAMS IN COMPETETIVE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUPS
Banyana Ba Style's Flame Flickers On: Sundowns Ladies Shine at COSAFA
Lebogang Ramalepe reflects on a Historic Banyana Banyana Performance Down Under
The Future of African Football: CAF African Football League Kicks Off a New Era on the Continent