By Thathe Msimango
South African wheelchair basketball starlet Samukelisiwe Mbatha says her biggest wish is to see equality being implemented in all sports codes in the country.
There has been an outcry for years that men’s sports do get more attention compared to women’s.
Mbatha, who plays for Kwa-Zulu Natal Warriors in the domestic league, says there is an even bigger challenge for athletes living with a disability.
She told Scrolla.Africa that she thinks the country is still far behind in terms of bringing equality.
“As women, we still face more challenges that need to be addressed, but this is far worse when it comes to us living [with a] disability,” said Mbatha, who was part of the SA Team that represented the country at the Commonwealth Games.
The 21-year-old has been part of the national team set-up since 2015, and says it has been a privilege for her to be recognised as one of the best players in the country.
“I have to be grateful to be part of the national team. I come from a rural area where I travel for more than one hour to access the training facility,” said Mbatha, who hails from Indwendwe, north of Durban.
“There are a lot of players who have better places to train but they can’t crack it into the national team.”
Many people assume that professional sports played by teams of athletes living with disabilities are not very competitive, but this is not the case.
“It is not easy to make it to the squad and I have to be consistent to keep my place in the team. So when I enter the court I give it all and play with other kids who wish to be on a level I have reached,” explained Mbatha.
Mbatha, who is brimming with belief in herself and her teammates, thinks the biggest obstacle they face is not facing better teams — but financial limitations.
To stay competitive, Mbathe and her teammates have to regularly travel across the globe to play friendly matches with the world’s best-ranked sides. But they don’t have the resources to sustain this.
However, Mbatha, who finished matric in 2019, still believes they have a chance to qualify for Paralympics in 2024.
“We failed to qualify for the last Olympics because we had so little time to prepare. But I think we have a chance to qualify for the next ones in 2024.”
Pictured above: Samukelisiwe Mbatha
Image source: Supplied