Smeda leads way for Banyana heading for Sweden's crack women's league

22 February 2019 - 15:11 By Mahlatse Mphahlele
Janine Van Wyk and Leandra Smeda during the South African national womens soccer team media open day at UJ Auckland Park Campus on February 22, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Janine Van Wyk and Leandra Smeda during the South African national womens soccer team media open day at UJ Auckland Park Campus on February 22, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Having spent some time in Lithuania with FK Gintra-Universitetas‚ star Banyana Banyana midfielder Leandra Smeda has a good idea of what to find when she arrives in Sweden to join new club Vittsjő GIK in the Damallsvenskan.

The 29-year old midfielder‚ who became the first South African player to score in the Uefa Women’s Champions League last year‚ said she was excited to move to one of the best women’s leagues in the world.

“This is a good move for me because I will be the first South African to play in Sweden‚ which is one of the best leagues in the world‚” she said at University of Johannesburg as Banyana prepared for the trip to the Cyprus Cup next week.

“They have good teams there and the league is generally considered one of the best in women’s football‚ and some of teams play consistently in the Champions League.

“My team have produced a few players for the [Swedish] national team and I am looking forward to the season‚ which will start at the beginning of March after the Cyprus Cup.

“It is a move that will help to improve my game and going there will also help the national team.

“I know that if I do well that side‚ more opportunities will open up for local players in South Africa. We are always going to the World Cup‚ where there will be exposure and more opportunities will open up.

“I expect a lot of interest after the World Cup because we have a lot of talent in the team‚ it’s just that we don’t get many opportunities. The World Cup is a good opportunity for a lot of the players to be scouted by teams in Europe or even the US.

With the experience of having played in Lithuania‚ Smeda is not expecting any problems in acclimatising to her new conditions.

“In the short period I stayed in Lithuania‚ it was a challenge to adjust at the beginning but I know more or less what to expect in Sweden‚” she said.

“I am lucky because I am missing their winter‚ which can be very cold but I am looking forward to the new challenge of Sweden when I get there.”

For the past few months Smeda has been changed from an attacking to a defensive midfielder and she is enjoying her role.

“Mostly I was used as a defensive midfielder in Lithuania and in the national team but sometimes they use me as an attacker.

“I am comfortable as a defensive midfielder. I used to play in that position at University of Western Cape and it wasn’t that big of an adjustment.

“I am used to playing in different roles and I think it is good for players to be versatile‚” she said.

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