In the end, two girls from Matatiele netball team Matat NC emerged as the biggest winners of the Alfred Nzo District Twizza Netball League.
Ziyeza Mjoji and Princess Kanetsi have been called up to try for the national team, an unbelievable achievement for girls from rural EmaXesibeni and Matatiele.
Two teams from this district – Matatiele NC and Spears Netball Club – are expected to travel to East London to compete at provincial level when the Covid-19 regulations are relaxed.
Beyond that, the inaugural netball season for 20 teams from Bizana, Mount Frere, Mount Ayliff, Matatiele and Ntabankulu was also a much-needed cocktail of traditional dance, music, and sport.
Most importantly in these parts, it was an unpretentious celebration of young girls’ brilliance and natural talent.
For the first time in the Mount Ayliff Sports Precinct the netball courts attracted bigger crowds than the action on the main soccer stadium.
All this in a week where local villagers had travelled on horses, hitchhiked on trucks, tractors and buses to oppose bail for a 50-year-old man who repeatedly raped his granddaughter.
In the same week a 15-year-old girl disappeared for two days before she was found at Umtata Plaza Shopping Centre assaulted and raped.
Seeing these girls in action; effortlessly gliding and flying through the air like some netball wizards, seems like a defiance of the growing criminality faced by innocent girls.
For the past two months, the netball fever gripped the young and old, bringing to the precinct various groups including the newly launched Umzimvubu Men’s Forum, which has been formed as a bulwark against abuse of girls in this region.
Maybe you don’t understand the impact of Netball SA’s new league but consider this: it is now the biggest organised league of any sporting code anywhere in the continent.
At least 20 teams from 54 districts across the country make up the 1,080 teams participating in this league.
If you consider that seven players and three reserves make up a competitive netball team, this nationwide netball league has roped in over 10,800 girls into a formal sport league.
It’s not clear whether Netball SA expected the kind of positive outcome experienced in the Alfred Nzo District through these weekend games, but there is no denying the importance of getting more girls into sports and away from crime and abusive family members.