Professional sports athletes are individuals who transcend the ordinary, pushing their bodies to the limit in their pursuit of greatness.
Names such as Usain Bolt, Caster Semenya, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali are prime examples of what can be achieved in the sports world through sheer determination and dedication.
As these sports personalities’ names echo throughout the sports scene, Newcastle-born Simphiwe Mntambo is creating a name for himself in the basketball world.
Born and bred in Blaauwbosh, Osizweni, Simphiwe is a talented wheelchair basketball star with international sporting experience and he was recently appointed as the assistant coach for South Africa’s National Under-23 men’s wheelchair basketball team.
Holding an exceptional amount of experience and knowledge in basketball, Simphiwe’s journey into the basketball world began as a child, when he played at school during Grade 7. In 2005, he achieved his KwaZulu-Natal Sports Colours and was selected for the South African Under-23 men’s wheelchair basketball team in 2007.
In 2008 he was a member of the team that qualified for the 2009 men’s U/23 Wheelchair Basketball World Cup, which was held in Paris.
This was followed by him being appointed as the captain of the KZN Seniors team in 2019. He gained further experience coaching school wheelchair basketball and the Under-23 KwaZulu-Natal women’s team (KZN Warriors).
“I was born disabled. However, I never told myself that I’m different from other people. I’ve always made sure that I raise the flag for people with disabilities high. I also try to motivate other people with disabilities to play sport and ensure they better their lives.”
However, he adds that he is far from perfect and finds himself looking at other disabled sports players, such as Siphamandla Gumbi for support and encouragement.
Selected as the assistant coach for South Africa’s National Under-23 men’s wheelchair basketball team, Simphiwe says he is ecstatic and is looking forward to the growth and challenges that the task requires.
During the month of March, Simphiwe was meant to accompany the team to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where they were meant to compete in the Fazza International Wheelchair Basketball Tournament.
“While the Dubai tour was postponed, I will now help prepare the under 23 team to qualify for the World Cup in Tokyo Japan. At the event, we are going gain experience and take it back home for further preparation,” Simphiwe says.
As he makes it his mission to lead his team to victory, what does Simphiwe enjoy most basketball?
“I enjoy that it a team sport, which you can’t play alone. You need to communicate on the court because there are five other players on the court. You also learn a lot from your teammates on the court,” he explains.
However, growing up in Blaauwbosch, did Simphiwe ever imagine he would be the assistant coach to a national basketball team?
“Growing up, I didn’t imagine I would become an assistant coach. But as time went, I realised I was capable of coaching. This is because, when you are given a chance or a position to lead a team, such as being a captain, that’s where you can see you might end up being given an appointment as a national assistant coach. However, I didn’t think the opportunity would come so early though for me,” he smiles.
While determined to perform at full capacity as the team’s assistant coach, Simphiwe is also looking at giving back to the community where he grew up.
“I want to be more involved in coaching, so I can get more experience and help young children onto the right path. I will try to assist schools in the Majuba District, for example, Bumbisizwe School in Madadeni, Section 5, where I attended school from Grade R up until Grade 7, under the Mr Grobbler as the school’s principal.”
As he makes a name for himself in the sports world, Simphiwe extends a heartfelt thanks to his mother, Sibongile Mntambo.
“She never gave up on me, and she’s always there for me. I also want to thank my family Dudu Mntambo and Hlengiwe Mdumiseni Jiyane, as they always have my back, as well as Syabonga Kunene.”
Simphiwe also thanks all his supporters from the Mntambos Nhlangothi Clan, who always attend his games or watch the games on television when they can’t attend personally.
With Simphiwe on the path of greatness, he encourages other disabled people to never give up.
“People with a disability must know it not the end of the world when you are in a wheelchair. You can do better than a lot of able-bodied people,” he encourages.
Furthermore, he urges parents of disabled children to take their children to school where they can be assisted in terms of what they are truly capable of.
Well done to Simphiwe Mntambo, you are a true role model.