LEGENDS CORNER: Gumede lives for netball

PASSIONATE: Netball veteran Hazel Gumede. PHOTO: VELI NHLAPO
PASSIONATE: Netball veteran Hazel Gumede. PHOTO: VELI NHLAPO

SHE says she eats, drinks and sleeps netball and has been doing so for a solid 36 years. And Hazel Gumede is not contemplating quitting the sport any time soon.

The likeable 48-year-old mother of two says not even a tsunami will remove her from netball, which was derived from early versions of basketball.

The sport began in England in the 1890s.

Sowetan paid Gumede, an inductee into the Hall of Fame, a visit at her house in Mofolo South, Soweto, at the weekend to find out what makes her special.

How did you join netball?

When it was introduced at schools in 1976 but I was playing korfball, tennis and athletics.

Why did you choose netball?

I was good at korfball and it was easy for me to adjust in netball because of its similarities to basketball.

Do you have any regrets about your involvement?

No regrets at all. It exposed me to different cultures and races. We also travelled a lot, which I enjoyed.

Talking about races, how where you treated by players of different races during the dark days of apartheid?

It was bad at that time. It came as a surprise when they selected me in the whites-only Southern Transvaal team for a tournament in Upington (Northern Cape). Other regions put pressure on Rita Oosthuizen, the president at that time, to remove me from the team. They never informed me about the departure date for Upington, and I only heard when they were back.

What is your most memorable time in netball?

It was in 2000 when I got onto a plane for the first time. We flew to England with the Proteas for a test series. I was an assistant coach to Elize Kotze.

Which other countries did you play in?

I've been to Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, New Zealand, Australia, Barbados, Jamaica, Miami. The list is endless.

What did you achieve as a netball player?

I collected a number of trophies and medals as well as national and provincial colours.

What are your other achievements?

I was inducted in the Gsport Hall of Fame in 2007 and in 2011 I was on Sheroes in Sport and awarded a legends' jacket by Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula. I cried that day. It was tears of joy.

What is your current job?

I'm teaching physical education to Grades 8 to 12 at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in Henley.

I teach the learners netball after classes. I'm also involved with the game in Mofolo.

I started the club here in 2009 to help in the development of the sport in Soweto.

Where do you see netball in the country today?

Netball is dying a slow and painful death. But it is encouraging to hear the minister saying netball will go professional next year. Players and coaches will able to make a living.

Were you drawing a salary as a netballer during your heyday?

Not a chance, up until now we are still volunteers.

How did you survive?

I believe that God was working behind the scenes. I don't know any other way. To go on tour with the team, I used to take unpaid leave from my previous employer.

Who was a difficult opponent?

I never had one, I was a difficult opponent to all.

Give us a brief description of yourself?

A strong black woman. However, people say I am humble, grounded and down to earth.

Your message to aspiring netball players?

They should sweat more in practice to bleed less in battle.

They should never give up, the challenge is there to make them strong - and it is temporary.

They should use their God-given talent and that will open doors.

  • This article was first published in the Sowetan newspaper on 6 June 2012


This in-depth feature series is aimed at giving you, dear reader, an opportunity to get up close and personal with these heroes and heroines. We will try to turn back the hands of time as they tell us the tales of their rise to the top and find out what they have been up to since.

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