South Africa women’s star Leandra Smeda moves to Sweden

South Africa midfielder Leandra Smeda has signed for Swedish side Vittsjo GIK after impressing at the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

The 29-year-old recently completed a six-month spell with Lithuanian side FK Gintra-Universitas

The Banyana Banyana star was also recommended to the club by Nigeria women’s Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby.

“Their coach spoke to Nigeria’s coach (Dennerby) about me because he needed references,” she explained.

Smeda played against Nigeria twice at the Nations Cup in Ghana – a 1-0 win in the opening Group B match and the loss on penalties in the final.

“Probably he liked what he heard so they signed me. It was also based on my performances at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

“You never know who’s watching you – I didn’t even know the Nigeria coach took note of me!

“It shows that you have to give 100% every time you play because there might be an opportunity to play abroad.

“It’s also how you act on and off the field so people can give you a good reference when the opportunity arises.”

Smeda played for the University of the Western Cape Ladies in the South African Sasol Women’s League.

She made history last year by becoming the first South African to score in the European Women’s Champions League when she netted for Gintra-Universitas against Finland’s Espoo Honka last August.

“I’m excited to start a new journey at a new team. I know it won’t be easy but I know I have to work hard,” she added.

“Things have been going well for me so far, at this late stage of my career.

“Hopefully I can help the team do well in the league so I can play in the Champions League again.”

Smeda joins a growing number of South African women who have moved overseas.

Last year Banyana vice captain Refiloe Jane and Rhoda Malaudzi joined Australia’s Canberra United while Thembi Kgatlana, the newly crowned African Women’s Player of the Year, and Linda Motlhalo are at Houston Dash in the USA.

“It’s good for the national team having players abroad because we can learn the style of football that’s played in the different countries,” Smeda insisted.

“It allows us to improve individually so when we return to the national team we can always pass on our experience.

“If we do well at these clubs the coaches will be encouraged to look at South African players and more players will get the opportunities to play abroad.

“It not just about us, we’re representing all South African players who are hoping to go abroad.”

Smeda will join Vittsjo GIK after the week-long Cyprus Women’s Cup which starts at the end of February.

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