EC sports stars share their story in new documentary

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The poster for the documentary, ‘Rural Diamonds - Small Village, Big Dreams’.
The poster for the documentary, ‘Rural Diamonds - Small Village, Big Dreams’.


A documentary tracing the roots of sports stars who hail from underprivileged communities in the Eastern Cape premiers on Thursday.

Titled Rural Diamonds – Small Village, Big Dreams, the doccie followed the journeys of Lusapho April, Mfuneko Ngam, Zintle Mpupha and Zanele Vimbela on how they made it against all odds.

They all have represented South Africa on the international stage.

The documentary, the brainchild of Luyanda Peter, was filmed last year. It also features the people who discovered and groomed the sports stars.

Peter, who has been involved in sports for more than two decades, said the documentary was inspired by his passion to profile athletes from poor backgrounds “and show that people can rise from the tough conditions and lack of facilities to be world-class”.

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He also got the input of former sports and recreation minister Ngconde Balfour, who championed transformation in sports during his tenure.

Long distance runner April, who turned 40 last month, has competed at two Olympic Games.

The athlete from Addnear in Gqeberha lamented the lack of sports infrastructure development in his area, something that forced him to train at the University of Fort Hare in Alice and in Hogsback.

He feels this robs children in these communities of a chance to train and grow in any sport of their choice.

Springbok Women’s Sevens player Mpupha was affected by the lack of sport development programmes and rugby facilities in her hometown of Middledrift.

The 28-year-old started her sports career in cricket and represented South Africa at Under-19 level.

Mpupha’s advice to aspiring youngsters is for them to seize any opportunities that come their way despite their background.

Even with a lack of resources, the Eastern Cape has produced many fine sportspeople who made it against all odds.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi and his team-mate Makazole Mapimpi were part of the 2019 World Cup winning team. The pair hails from communities without rugby facilities.

Kolisi was fortunate as his talent was spotted early and he got to attend a privileged high school. It was not the case for Mapimpi who made a name for himself despite growing up and attending school in the rural area.

Aliwal North is a small town in the Joe Gqabi District Municipality and it does not offer opportunities for young people. This is where Proteas netball player Zanele Vimbela comes from.

The 33-year-old, who currently plays netball for Loughborough Lightning in the UK, has represented South African at major global events, notably the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Game and the Netball World Cup in 2019.

Vimbela said it was important for her to participate in the documentary to tell her own story of how she utilised the minimal opportunities and eventually made it out of the small town.

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Cricketer Ngam, who played for the Proteas from the 1990s until early 2000s, believes stories focusing on sports stars who hail from rural areas and townships are not told enough.

The retired bowler believes the documentary will go a long way in inspiring young people from the communities with similar challenges to take up sport seriously.


Bongekile Macupe  

Senior Education Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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