A year filled with drama and uncertainty ended on a bright note for rising soccer star, Shakira O’Malley, 17, from Ocean View.
A former pupil at Kleinberg and Sun Valley primary schools and the Silvermine Academy, she has taken up a scholarship offer to attend the University of Northwestern Ohio, in America, next year.
Although she excelled at various sports over the years, including volleyball and athletics, it was her skill as a soccer player that caught the eye of the South African Football Association and a spot at Tuks Sports High School, in Pretoria, at the start of Grade 10.
The athletic teen arrived home at the weekend after writing her final matric exam. However, it won’t be long before she has to pack her bags again to travel to America to start her new journey in just over a week.
A member of the national under-17 and under-20 set up, the young player has been involved with the game since the age of six when she joined Ocean View Football Club.
Her obvious talent and hardwork didn’t go unnoticed as she was invited to attend trials with the Tuks Girls Academy, which is based at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, at the end of 2017.
She spent the last three years there, during which the youngster was named vice-captain of the national under-17 side. Having made her debut in 2019, she now has 10 international caps to her name. She has certainly come a long way in a relatively short time since kicking ball with the boys.
“I was always the only girl until a few more joined the club,” she said.
“I remember playing with the boys was very intense, but not as intense as playing against girls,” she said.
A move to the Wynberg-based Spurs Women’s FC in 2017 introduced her to fully-fledged women’s football.
Shaky at first, she developed in to a solid defender and made an impression on coach Winston Zeederberg, who led his side to Safa Cape Town’s Coke Cup final against UCT, in 2019.
“I remember in my first match for Spurs, I did a lot of things in front of goal that I shouldn’t have done and had the goalkeeper screaming at me,” she said.
For Zeederberg, it was simply a lack of confidence, not talent.
“She stood out from the go,” he said, “ but she needed a bit of work.
“For me, she’s not just a footballer, she’s a complete human being and a role model in her community. She’s a real goal-getter,” he said.
Shakira’s proud parents Janine and Marco said their daughter’s achievements in a short space of time, has been overwhelming, but not surprising.
“Yes, she is a good footballer but we want her to do well at school too,” her father said.
“She is goal-driven and a hard worker. If she sets her sight on something, she works hard in order to achieve it. She has been like that from an early age and that hasn’t changed,” her mother added.
“She has been to China, Mauritius and other places since making her debut. I never dreamt she’ll get this far at her age,” she said.
She said the scholarship will cover her daughter’s tuition and books, but that the family will have to pay for medical and other expenses.
The total cost will be around R60 000 a year for the next three years, she said.
The O’Malleys have set up a back-a-buddy account to raise some funds.
● If you’d like to help, visit back-a-buddy/shakira-omalley.