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THE FUTURE OF AFRICAN FOOTBALL IS FEMALE MASANDAWANA YOUTH PLAYER LUMKA QHEKEKA SHOOTS FOR THE STARS Lumka Qhekeka lifting the Hollywood Bets League trophyAuthor: Sijabulile NdlovuPhotos: Gavin Barker - BackpagePixThe rise of women’s football on the African continent has unearthed many prolific players of the sport across the diaspora. Historically, South Africa did not have a professional women’s football league until the trailblazing inception of the HollywoodBets Super League in 2019.Going further afield, the introduction of continental tournaments such as COSAFA (Council of Southern Africa Football Association), as well as the inaugural CAF Women’s Champions League in 2021 have resulted in the growth of women's football. Consequently, there has been an awe-inspiring rise of young female football players who are determined to make their mark on the football wall of fame. One such ambitious youngster is 17-year-old, Lumka Qhekeka.
Hailing from Soweto, south of Johannesburg, the Masandawana Youth Development player started playing football at the age of seven when she joined a boys’ football club, emerging as the top goal scorer in the team.
In a conversation with Mamelodi Sundowns Digital Magazine crew, Qhekeka expressed that her role model, Lionel Messi, has played a pivotal role in shaping her perspective on the beautiful game, “I have always been passionate about football since childhood. However, watching my role model, Lionel Messi playing made me fall in love with the sport,” shared Lumka. The teenage sensation famously scored a brace during her HollywoodBets Super League debut against Free State side, Tsunami Queens in 2021. Moreover, Qhekeka was part of Mamelodi Sundowns’ Under-16 girls’ squad who were crowned champions of the introductory 2022 Volkswagen Vaya Cup.
When asked about Masandawana’s stellar performance at the tournament, Lumka expressed her gratitude towards her coaches for their unwavering support, “I was overwhelmed by the victory, especially because we were participating in the competition for the very first time. We couldn’t have done it without our coaches Andisiwe Mgcoyi and Rhoda Mulaudzi”, said Qhekeka.
Being a female football player herself, Lumka revealed that she is influenced by other women in the sport, “I am highly inspired by the Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies team, particularly Bambanani Mbane and Andisiwe Mgcoyi. I am also inspired by Banyana Banyana captain, Refiloe Jane,” said Qhekeka. Additionally, the rising football star shared that she feels blessed to be playing football in a generation where the sport is no longer strictly about the men’s game. Andisiwe Mgcoyi celebrates a goal with Lumka QhekekaBanyana Ba Style forward and youth development coach, Andisiwe Mgcoyi expressed her enthusiasm about the upward trajectory that women’s football is taking on the continent, as well as the dedication of promising footballers such as Lumka Qhekeka, “The new generation of female football players is very adaptable, making it easier for them to learn modern football techniques. They are also versatile and willing to play in different positions on the field,” said Mgcoyi.
As the world observes International Women's Month, it is important to acknowledge the strides that have been made in the advancement of women’s football. However, we still have a long way to go. The development of women’s football took centre stage at the World Football Summit Africa 2022, hosted in Durban.
Speaking in a panel discussion about combatting gender stereotypes in football, Mamelodi Sundowns Chairman Tlhopie Motsepe highlighted the importance of male stakeholders playing their part in enabling growth within the football fraternity, “A big reason why we’re not seeing women in these leadership roles is that a lot of the power still sits with men. With that said, men must be part of the solution”, expressed the Chairman.
Goal-driven, Lumka Qhekeka revealed that she always plays with purpose, which keeps her motivated. She is influenced by watching youngsters such as Erling Haaland of Manchester City and Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund. The rising football star’s goal is to become one of the best youth players and reach glorious milestones in her career. With the help of her club and her coaches, the future indeed seems bright for young Lumka Qhekeka - but she is not the only one with the world at her feet. There is an exciting new generation of African female footballers who are waiting to showcase their talents to the world - all that is left for us is to support their exciting rise to glory.