From several rural villages in the North West Province, a group of women are reshaping people’s perceptions of disability as the most dominant women’s team in the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge.
This month, the North West Bees will go in search of their third consecutive Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge women’s title at the Vodacom Mandeville Indoor Sports Centre in Johannesburg. The Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge is the country’s premier provincial competition open to all Under-23 teams as well as senior men and women’s teams.
The Finals will be played at Mandeville on Saturday 16 November, with the Under-23 final at 10h00, the women’s final at 11h30 and the men’s final at 14h00. The men’s final will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
And the Bees are more than confident of achieving their goal.
“We’re looking forward to the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge. We’re excited about it as a team. We can’t wait to face KwaZulu-Natal because they have always been our hardest team to beat. They are always our biggest challenge. But I’ve got five women on my team who are playing extremely well at the moment,” said coach Ntombi Ntombela.
The Bees beat their rivals KwaZulu-Natal 38-12 in last year’s final. But as much as Ntombela says their preparations are on track for a third title, it doesn’t hide the obvious challenge this group of women face.
“We are very scattered throughout many rural villages. Some of our players are at school while others are working. It’s a bit of a challenge for us to get together to train, but we try and do so every weekend.
“But my players always look forward to the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge. I think it motivates them that such a big company is showing hem support, and giving women’s sport the recognition. It inspires them.”
Ntombela faces her own challenges as the mother of a disabled child, and living in the remote village of Makgobistad.
“It is difficult for me to coach while also having to care for a child who is disabled. But if you are dedicated, anything is possible,” she said.
But it was her own child’s disability that opened the world of wheelchair basketball to her.
“The first time I saw wheelchair basketball was in 2004 when I took my child to the Gelukspan Community Hospital. They had a rehabilitation centre there, and when I saw the sport I told them I want to be involved. I loved it from that moment, and I still love it.
“I love the challenge in the sport. When people see a disabled person, they normally think that person cannot do anything. But when they see them on the basketball court and they can do so much more than most able-bodied people, it makes them wonder how they get it right.”
Should they win a third consecutive Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge women’s title this month on the 20thanniversary of this premier competition, most people will indeed be wondering how this small and dedicated group of disabled women do get it right.
Vodacom is proud to be a sponsor of wheelchair basketball for the past 20 years. 20 Years of promoting the power of sport.