Football has really made me grow as a person in so many different ways. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for it. I have faced many obstacles in life and still am going to face many more, but nothing will kill the passion that I have for football.
Growing up I had really strict parents who only had one focus for their children; Education. Don’t get me wrong, the focus they had was a really good one for us, but that was it. My parents didn’t like the idea of juggling school and sports, especially not football.
I’ve always loved football, even during the days when I could only watch it on television.
During my primary school years, there was no girls football offered at school, but I knew that I was definitely built for sport. It was something I had no doubt that released endorphins on high. The only lesson i ever looked forward to and was most excited about was P.E. (Physical Education) Everyone knew that if it were team sports, I must be in their team – Not trying to brag but yes I was that good!!! Soon I realised that I wanted more of it and had to come up with a way to convince my parents to let me play sports after school. This is when my natural lying instincts came in.
I had to tell my parents that it was compulsory to play at least two sports a year and started with netball before moving onto athletics. Signing the consent form was always a nightmare, and took my parents a long while to sign it even with my teachers encouraging them to.
Then high school came. Sports was optional and I knew I couldn’t come with the same excuse so I had to find a Plan B. I played netball and had friends drop me home after practices and matches which helped a lot, but when they couldn’t, it was a pretty tiring walk home. Netball was literally on the border line of acceptance to my parents because I did it in primary school, and they had eventually become accustomed to it… But then I took the next step and started football.
Football was a definite NO, especially to my dad. I found myself going to every single practice after school and have to run as fast as I can to get changed back into school uniform before my dad arrived at the school to fetch me. With my dad being a doctor, his times to pick me up could change at any time. I just had to make sure he didn’t notice a thing. I had no way of getting football boots so I had to borrow a friend’s until I could save up enough of my own money to get myself a pair. I remember buying my first ever pair of boots for R350. That was easily one of the best days of my life. Excuses ranging from having P.E and extra lessons to helping teachers out after school, seemed to do the trick until I was forced to go to Portuguese classes as an extra subject. I couldn’t say no, so I had to come up with another plan. I had to split my time evenly so that I could possibly make the two places and not miss out on either. When I told my situation to my teacher, he was very understanding and helped me reach a comprise as to making sure my work was always done. The tough times came when we arrived from games pretty late and I still had to walk home in the dark. I’ve been harassed, called at, and grabbed during my many dreadful journeys home, but I guess my love for the game was more powerful than my will to stop.
This went on for practically my whole high school life. Always having to duck and dive many times from them finding out. Every year I was invited to awards evenings and just told my dad that it was just another compulsory evening we had to help with. Many times I’ve walked on the stage with tears in my eyes knowing that I have no support for the sport I love. Watching all my friends’ parents always congratulating them with presents and hugs and kisses, while I made excuses to say how they are always ‘busy’ and couldn’t make it. These were the times that hurt me the most, but I couldn’t show it. My sisters were practically my only support when they realised what I was doing and never stopped giving me the encouragement I needed. My school blazer was quite an achievement, I had full colours for netball and for football. If I had supporting parents, I would’ve probably done all the school sports but I would’ve put myself in a much worse predicament. My dad attended an awards evening once and noticed how my blazer was different from all the others, I froze for a minute and realised that even though he was against all of it, my achievements were much bigger than that. I told him about my sports achievements and at that very moment I noticed a glimpse of acceptance even with him not responding to me. He didn’t want to admit it, but he was proud.
Sitting here today remembering all that I went through and all the times I could’ve easily given up, I’m happy that it all happened to me. Now I understand that the biggest motivators were indeed my parents. They have motivated me to keep pushing and keep doing what I love even when all odds are against me. They made me believe that there is enjoyment in doing something you love even during hard times. They made me believe that I could prove them wrong.
Today, I play for the one of the top clubs in South Africa, competing in the highest league for women’s football in the country. We made it to the National Championships and finished 2nd in the country. I was on TV, and guess who were supporting me from their living room…..My parents.
Through obstacles you must never throw in the towel, because it prepares you for something greater than you can ever imagine. I have become the person I am because of what I went through. There is never an excuse for anything depending on how bad you want it. In high school, I wasn’t playing to be noticed or scouted, it was purely for the love of the game. When you play with heart, that’s when your true talents show. When I have the ball by my feet and feel the wind brushing my face, I know that I am a hero to myself. Why? Because I changed the mindset of my parents by showing them that success isn’t about how many distinctions you get nor how much money you have in your pocket, but the impact you have within yourself. Determination for me is the constant practice of doing what you need to achieve what you can.
If the love and passion is there, everything will follow – just believe in the possibilities of your aspirations and goals.
Who knows, had my parents been supportive from Day 1, I could’ve been a Banyana star… but then again, after all I’ve been through… what’s stopping me?