What Freedom Means to Bongi Msomi

Being afforded many opportunities as a netball player is something that Bongi Msomi doesn’t take for granted. South Africa is set to celebrate Freedom Day in a few days and the netball stalwart has been part of the game since she was a youngster when the country was still a new democracy. Msomi thinks that it is because of this liberty she has managed to flourish into an indomitable force within the game. All Photos: Supplied

Being afforded many opportunities as a netball player is something that Bongi Msomi doesn’t take for granted. South Africa is set to celebrate Freedom Day in a few days, and the netball stalwart has been part of the game since she was a youngster, when the country was still a new democracy. Msomi thinks that it is because of this liberty that she has managed to flourish into an indomitable force within the game.

The former Spar Proteas captain has been part of netball since she was 16 years old. She cemented her place as an ambassador of South African sport, but wasn’t confident that playing at a national level was something possible, back when she started playing in 2004.

“It makes me think way back as I didn’t even know that I can play at a national level but I don’t think we absorb and see what it means in a country that we can now celebrate Freedom Day. I have had so many chances of being the best I can be without, I guess, being marginalised.”

“During my time as an athlete and now being a coach has given me so many opportunities and the freedom in our country has allowed me that, if it wasn’t for that I probably wouldn’t have had it.

“You can only encourage what you see, and I am also glad to be part of those who would say I have had a chance and within my chances I can look back and be proud to say I live in a country I can be proud of.”

SA Netball Icon Bongiwe Msomi is gsport’s WCW ahead of Freedom Day 

“As a woman in sport, there are areas where we can still be better but now and then I look back and think about those who changed things for us or played their part in making sure that in a few days, we can celebrate Freedom Day.”

Msomi says the growth is clear to see not just in netball but in women’s sport in Mzansi. She feels that one of the biggest improvements has come from how corporates are now putting their money where their mouth is, giving women the support they need, which is just what the ladies of sport need for the different codes to reach their top potential.

“Speaking about netball, a lot of work is being done behind the scenes. Corporates are now coming on board, there are a couple of women in sport who are becoming ambassadors with businesses and corporates.” 

“This shows the sport is becoming more professional,” says Msomi, “Which bodes well for our women in sport, something we never had before.”

“I truly believe that women put in more or less the same amount of work, if not more, as their male counterparts.”

“At this point, I can be proud to say we have seen that starting to make sense to a lot of people. They’re starting to look at it with a broader view and not just saying women in sports need to be supported but doing it. Women are getting to sit at big seats at the table, and this makes me proud.”

This year marks 20 years since Msomi took up the sport of netball, which means she has had a front seat to just what being a democratic nation has been able to offer her as a sportswoman. She says she feels humbled to be part of something so special, in a career that has given her so much.

“When I look back at that journey and think that I didn’t only play the sport, I holistically grew and changed completely. When I look back to know what I have achieved and standing up for what I believe in, is massive,” says Msomi. “I also have to give credit to the women I look up to because without them, I wouldn’t be here.”

“I sometimes pinch myself because I can’t believe this is what I am doing, and I also just love the little faces that I see (at clinics) and they are probably going to be better than me one day, and I cannot wait to see it happen!”

Msomi is known to work tirelessly not just on the field but off it as well. She might have called time on her playing career at the end of 2023, but she is still hard at work in the world of netball. Along with her coaching job at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), she is finally getting time to focus on the Bongi Msomi Legacy Project, which has grown in leaps and bounds.

“I now have time to be part of the project itself as I haven’t had that time. The biggest thing has been to run our biggest clinics in partnership with Spur Sports. It’s a great project.”

“We know that the development side of things has to be covered and supported, they have taken us on board and said they will help us play our part. We can use our sport to up-skill so many kids, so that for me has been exciting.

“Going forward we also have academic support in the project where we look after athletes in terms of applications, be it matric or applying for tertiary education, where we assist them with what APS (Application Point Score) they need and what course they can qualify for, to help them align with their ideas and what they want to study.”

“This year we have six kids at university, I love the idea of a student-athlete, not just an athlete. I got my job at the University at Johannesburg not just because I played the sport, but because I had the qualifications,” she added.

Msomi’s love for the sport continues despite her not taking to the court anymore, and with the Telkom Netball League set to get underway soon, she is urging players to take hold of the massive opportunity of playing in such a prestigious league.

“Embrace the moment, it’s the biggest league in the country and doing well if you look at other leagues around the world. If you get the opportunity to be part of such, you want to embrace it. 

“The more you can do well at home, it will open doors for you to be recognised for your province and the national squad. Being on the screens for the tournament will make you realise how many others would want an opportunity like this. Cherish that moment because it’s not guaranteed, nothing in sport is a lifetime thing, it’s really about that time when you are still able to and can still run around injury-free and healthy.”

She also added the Telkom #StandTall campaign really put not just netball but also the players on the map. Msomi feels that the initiative was one that was well thought out and it made a big impact on her personally.

“I saw one of the kids that came to a #StandTall campaign and this child says to me the first time I saw you was at the launch, I was completely shocked. Sometimes people will say I have seen you on TV playing for the Spar Proteas and for this 12-year-old to say ‘that is the first time I saw you and I loved that big picture, I didn’t know you make pictures so big!’ I could just see the excitement on her face.

“I don’t think Telkom themselves realised how their partnership with netball changed the perception of the sport. During the launch, I walked in the room and I said to myself I have seen this for top athletes in other countries, so to be part of it was amazing. Being able to tell our stories through such a fantastic way like #StandTall is wonderful.”


Main Photo Caption: Being afforded many opportunities as a netball player is something that Bongi Msomi doesn’t take for granted. South Africa is set to celebrate Freedom Day in a few days and the netball stalwart has been part of the game since she was a youngster when the country was still a new democracy. Msomi thinks that it is because of this liberty she has managed to flourish into an indomitable force within the game. All Photos: Supplied

Please Rate this Post

0 ratings, 0 votes0 ratings, 0 votes (0 rating, 0 votes, rated)
You need to be a registered member to rate this.
Loading...

Recent Posts

Categories

Follow Us