Racing Louisville added South African star Thembi Kgatlana as a transfer from Atlético Madrid, the club announced Wednesday.
The club paid a transfer fee to acquire Kgatlana, who was named African Women’s Footballer of the Year in 2018. The 26-year-old then signed a two-year contract with Louisville that includes a club option for 2024.
@NWSL defenders: Look out. 👊We’ve signed Thembi Kgatlana, the 2018 Africa Cup of Nations Player of the Tournament, on a transfer from Atlético Madrid.— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) July 6, 2022
@NWSL defenders: Look out. 👊We’ve signed Thembi Kgatlana, the 2018 Africa Cup of Nations Player of the Tournament, on a transfer from Atlético Madrid.
Because Kgatlana is playing with South Africa at the Africa Women Cup of Nations, her start with Louisville could come after that tournament’s final on July 23. As a member of the South African team, Kgatlana has netted 22 goals in 63 appearances – including the team’s first World Cup goal in 2019.
“We were looking for a winger/forward who has a good first touch and is not afraid to dribble and attack – and we have found exactly that with Thembi,” Racing coach Kim Björkegren said in the news release. “What’s also important to us is that we signed not just a good player but a good teammate. Thembi always has a smile on her face and loves football, and she is ready to help the team as soon as she arrives in Louisville.”
Kgatlana played in the NWSL in 2018 for the Houston Dash. She also has played in China, Portugal and Spain, most recently spending this past season with Madrid. She made 28 appearances and nine starts for Madrid, and she added seven goals and three assists to help the team reach the final of the Supercopa Femenina.
“I’m very excited to have this opportunity to return to the NWSL with Racing Louisville,” Kgatlana said in the news release. “It has always felt like there is unfinished business for me in the league, and I can’t wait to get started. From the moment I spoke with Kim, it was clear that it is an exciting project. I joined Beijing BG Phoenix shortly after he had left and heard only good things, so it was an easy decision. I look forward to seeing everyone after the Cup of Nations!”
The signing is the first roster move that Louisville has made in recent weeks in which they’ve added a player. Since the transfer window opened on June 1, Louisville has made three trades, sending forward Ebony Salmon to Houston, forward Cece Kizer and defender Addisyn Merrick to Kansas City and the rights of forward Tobin Heath to the OL Reign.
In exchange for all of those trades, the team received a number of draft picks, two international roster slots and $375,000 in allocation money.
The team has struggled recently, most recently finishing in a draw with Orlando despite leading 2-0 earlier in the match. They have not won a game since May 22 and sit eighth in the NWSL standings with a 2-4-4 record.
With the signing of Kgatlana, Louisville has just one international roster slot left.