PMB girl fights destiny to go to London

2012-06-09 00:00

THE sky is the limit for a local Banyana Banyana defender, who will be representing South Africa at the Olympics in London.

Zama Cele’s journey to stardom was not an easy one. Coming from the Willowfountain rural area and with mother working as a domestic worker, she had to fight all her life just to get what she wanted.

“I have always believed that my surroundings and environment should never be an excuse not to achieve what I wanted in life, so being selected to represent my country in the Olympics has made my dream come true,” she said.

She said she started following her brother, Mlungisi, to his soccer training as young girl of seven. “That is how I grew to develop talent and love for football, even though my mother disapproved of my passion at the time,” she said.

Cele said she had to insist that it was her talent and follow her heart to play football despite her mother’s disapproval.

She was doing grade 8 at Willowfountain Secondary in 2005 when she was introduced to the Vodacom League, which was not easy as she was the youngest player in the league, competing with people way older than her.

“I had to juggle between school and soccer training so I had to plan my diary carefully to ensure that I kept a balance between the two,” she said.

Cele said that has finally paid off, which means a lot for her because for the first time ever, Willowfountain and Pietermaritzburg have made it to the Banyana squad for the Olympics.

Being a girl playing soccer in her area had a negative stigma attached to it, because people would label her as a lesbian and say that she was probably going to end up smoking dagga, but that never got Cele down because she just kept her head high and focused on polishing her soccer skills.

She said it would have been a lot easier for her if she had sponsors, but she is going use what she has to perform to her best.

Her mother, Basukile Cele, said: “I am not about to lie and say I always agreed or supported her idea of playing soccer because she has now been selected to represent South Africa in the Olympics.”

Basikile said at times she would even ask her where she ever saw decent woman playing soccer, but little did she know someday Zama would become part of the Olympic team.

She said some of her neighbours did not make it easy for her to accept that her daughter was indeed passionate and talented at football, because they would tell her that she was going to start smoking dagga, or that this was a ploy to be with boys or she was going to start dating other girls because that is what happens to women who play soccer.

“Her late father finally convinced me that there was nothing wrong with her. She took after him because he also played soccer,” she said. Basukile said she is proud of what her daughter has been able to achieve.

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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