Life Lessons from the Netball Court: Player, Coach and Umpire Bongi Mbayeka

Myolisi Gophe, 20 January 2021

Having played netball from primary school up to university and now doubling up as a player and a players’ representative in the executive committee of Cape Town Netball Federation, Bongi Ngayeka is seen as the glue that keeps netball ticking in the region. Myolisi Gophe caught up with her to find out more.

So who is Bongi Ngayeka?

I was born in the Eastern Cape town of Idutywa but I grew up in East London and King William’s Town. After matric I moved to Cape Town to further my studies at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology where I completed my National Diploma and BTech in Biomedical Technology. I’m a netball player but I’m also a netball umpire, a netball coach, a technical official, and I’m currently serving on the executive of Cape Town netball federation as the Chairperson of the players’ commission committee. 

How did you get involved in netball?

Growing up in primary and high school I was involved in a number of sports, including volleyball, athletics, cricket, tennis and – of course – netball. When I arrived at CPUT in 2009 as a first-year student I immediately joined the institution’s netball team. Even after I graduated, I played for CPUT due to them playing club netball.  Because of my continued efforts and also my involvement in the game of netball around Cape Town, I was elected to be Chairperson of the players’ commission committee of Cape Town Netball Federation. So my love has always been there, since I started the sport when I was in Grade One, aged seven. And now, 23 years later I’m still very much active in the game. 

What are some of your proudest netballing achievements?

One of the biggest achievements so far for me was representing the Cape Town Netball Federation in Johannesburg last year at the Nationals: the team that I was a part of came back with silver medals. And being a player’s representative is something that I enjoy very much, especially because I’m able to represent the players, and I’m also able to work with the executive to ensure that the players get the best knowledge, the best guidance and best service from all of us.

How has netball shaped your life?

Being involved in netball with the Cape Town Netball Federation has taught me discipline, it has taught me that when you love something you stick it out and give the best of your abilities. It has taught me that you need to be a team player and be able to work with other people in order to make a success of anything.  And I’ve been assigned many netball-related responsibilities, so that’s also shaped me as a person: to know that when people depend on you and you’re  given a certain task, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you deliver and not let people down.

Why do you think netball is still often perceived as a “white sport”, especially at senior national level?

Unfortunately, South Africa has a history of racial discrimination and racial segregation that brings negative connotation to sports. You’ll find that some people will say rugby is a white people’s sport, and some people will say that soccer is a black people’s sport.  So there’s always going to be contrasting views, and all I’m going to say is that certain people do have privileges that allow them to dominate certain sports. Some people can afford tour fees; some people can’t. Some people can afford transport to attend netball practices, and some people can’t. Some people will be able to afford a new playing kit and training takkies, and some people won’t. So certain people will be in a better position to pursue their talents, and others may not make it as far as they would like. I would love it if people could put aside their personal feelings and politics and choose people based on merit, choose people that are deserving and choose people that are able to work together as a team to make it better. 

What do you think can be done about this situation?

We need to recognise barriers certain players face, and try to assist them as much as we can. And we would like to get to a point where netball is a professional paying sport so that our players can know that this is what they can do as a career. Currently our players have to juggle their studies or jobs, and request leave to participate in this game that they love so much. With the 2023 Netball World Cup coming to Cape Town, maybe we will get sponsors to fund a professional netball league so that our girls can just focus on their netball careers. With all these developments, we hope that all these positive changes will also reach disadvantaged and rural areas. So much talent is left undiscovered. If we can reach out to all communities, we could get a very strong netball team in this country.

What do you think the impact will be of the 2023 Netball World Cup?

Netball is still a developing sport in South Africa, so to have something as huge as the World Cup coming to our shores is something that’s quite exciting. I believe that the event will give us the exposure and recognition that we’ve been longing for.  And to welcome all these superstars we usually watch on TV and see them in person will be truly inspirational: it will show the girls that anything is possible in this world. 

Want to read more stories like this one? Wondering what’s been happening in sport? Just check out the latest issue of the Cape At 6 magazine. Happy reading, folks!