Kgadiete, the trophy-hungry Mamelodi Sundowns' goal machine

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Mamelodi Sundowns narrowly edged Green Buffaloes 1-0 in the semi-final on the route to winning the inaugural TotalEnergies CAF Women’s Champions League COSAFA qualifiers in September.

Melinda Kgadiete's solitary strike was all Masandawana required to subdue their biggest challengers from Zambia at the King Zwelithini Stadium and is still emotional about making such a huge difference.

"The game I enjoyed and learned a lot from was the semi-final match against Green Buffaloes that we won 1-0," Kgadiete, told CAFOnline.com.

"I think it was one of those times that I will always remember as I created something special for myself and my team too. It was a nice tournament and tough at the same time. We made good memories and history as a team."

Melinda Kgadiete of South Africa is tackled by Chimwemwe Madise of Malawi during the 2021 COSAFA Womens Championship semifinal game between South Africa and Malawi at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha on 7 O

To clinch the lone COSAFA ticket, Sundowns recorded six wins and scored 22 goals, with five of them from the foot of Kgadiete, which won her the coveted golden boot and she is still in awe of her feat.

"I didn't expect to achieve this or nurse the thoughts going to the tournament," she admitted.

"I just went there with the intent to help my team win it and qualify for the Women's Champions League. I think clearly because I played well that was why I got the golden boot.  

"Without my teammates, I don't think this would have happened for me. That means a lot and boosted my confidence greatly. People were praising me by just checking who was scoring. 

"It helped me a lot, especially getting a call up to the national team after the tournament. It makes me feel like a big player now."

The COSAFA golden boot winner is in her debut season with Sundowns following her move from Bloemfontein Celtics in 2020 and currently has eight goals to her name in the ongoing Hollywoodbets Super League season.

Football is a family thing for me. My father used to play football and my older brother used to take me to the field because he also played football. Melinda Kgadiete

Before joining Masandawana, she opened up on how her storied journey started from the streets of Mdantsane, the second largest township in Eastern Cape to South Africa's administrative capital, Pretoria.

"I was born in Mthatha and grew up in Mdantsane, where I also started playing at the age of 10," she continued.

"Then, I began going to the field with my brother and used to play with boys on the streets in local tournaments while still in Grade 5 in school. A female team coach saw and took me to Birmingham City, where I played in my teenage years before joining the Celtics.

"My first break came at Bloemfontein Celtics - which is a big team in South Africa in 2014. And from there, opportunities started to open up for me as I was signed up by Mamelodi Sundowns in 2020.

"I started this year (2021) to play for Sundowns. Things have been looking up for me. I've played in the COSAFA and now looking forward to the CAF Women's Champions League."

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Female footballers often contend with the unique struggle of getting patronage and parentage in their formative years. For the striker, born in Mthatha and raised in Mdantsane, it was a different story.

"Football is a family thing for me. My father used to play football and my older brother used to take me to the field because he also played football," she narrated.

"I'm very lucky because I've never struggled with support as my dad is always there for me. I've never played barefooted because my dad bought me boots and was very supportive."

As a Celtics player, she played in a 1-1 draw against Zambia as Banyana finished as runners-up at Ghana 2018 Women's Africa Cup of Nations to clinch their first-ever Women's World Cup ticket.

It is one of those dreams that came true for me in my career. It was a nice feeling. It was a shock, exciting and great emotion for me. Melinda Kgadiete

Three years later, the 29-year-old was one of the two Sundowns stars that powered Desiree Ellis' team to 2021 Aisha Buhari Cup success in September and is still savouring the memories.

"It is one of those dreams that came true for me in my career. It was a nice feeling. It was a shock, exciting and great emotion for me," she reflected.

"Winning a trophy against Nigeria and on their home [Lagos] and against Asisat Oshoala [four-time Africa Women's Player of the Year] at the Aisha Buhari Cup.

"I keep watching those games over and over again. I couldn't believe it. It's football and you've got to believe in yourself sometimes that anything is possible."

Sundowns secured a nervy 1-0 win over University of Johannesburg this week and the forward insists the Hollywoodbets Super League is offering them a quality preparation for the continent's showpiece.

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"The mood is good and high. Our participation in the Hollywoodbets Super League is helping us to prepare for the Champions League," she enthused.

"Anytime we play a match or in training, we often joke and discuss how we are going to play in the Champions League. Even though we playing the league, the focus is on the Caf championship, everyone is excited and really looking forward to it."

The Brazilians were drawn alongside Kenya's Vihiga Queens, Morocco's ASFAR and Nigeria's Rivers Angels in Group B of the eight-club tournament.

They will begin the competition against the CECAFA winners on November 6 and she reflects on the draw while sharing their targets.

"Seeing the team from Nigeria in our group shook me. It is a tough group and every team in our group are very good," she revealed.

"Every team that got there were champions in their regions and you can't afford to underestimate any side.

"We will just go there, do our best and try to win all our games. It might be tough playing a team like Vihiga for the first time because we don't know anything about them except for their videos, but we will go for a kill and represent the country well."

Following her impressive exploits at COSAFA, she opened up on her personal ambitions when she lands in Cairo come this November.

"What happened at CoSAFA was an amazing experience but I have to forget about it and focus on the task ahead," she disclosed.

"I will replicate that performance at the CAF Champions League. I did well when people expected me to. I want to score goals as a striker.

"But if those goals don't come as long as I help others score and my team win matches and win the tournament, I will be fulfilled. Personally, I hope and pray to have a good tournament."

Melinda Kgadiete of South Africa during the 2021 COSAFA Womens Championship semifinal game between South Africa and Malawi at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha on 7 October 2021 ©Ryan WilkiskyBackpagePix

Sundowns celebrated for the first time the men's version of the CAF Champions League title in 2016 - a huge feat the women's side seeks also to achieve in Egypt, according to Kgadiete.

"They once won and always qualified for Caf Champions League," she recalls.

"We are looking up to them to achieve what they have achieved. We want to make history and be the first team to win the tournament.

"We are not just doing this for ourselves, but also our country, fans and family. It won't be easy but we hope to win and bring the trophy home."

As a result of her achievements, Kgadiete will be the leading star to watch in the colours of Sundowns when the inaugural championship kicks off in Egypt.