In 2019 the South African netball team made it to the quarter-finals of the Netball World Cup, their best return since 1995 when they lost the final to Australia.
One of the standout performances in the tournament for SA was from Aliwal North born Zanele Vimbela, who has been a constant feature for the SPAR Proteas since 2014.
Vimbela has made her mark in the local circuit. In 2020 she landed a seasonal contract with UK-based franchise Strathclyde.
While she puts her success down to hard work, a strong support base and making the most of her opportunities, her journey from a rural town to the top echelons of the sport is now an inspiration to other young athletes who want to crack it in a code that is yet to have a professional league.
Urban Villager through funding from the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) will be documenting the story of how Vimbela managed to beat the odds. She and three other athletes from the Eastern Cape, Mfuneko Ngam, Zintle Mpupha and Lusapho April, will be talking of the challenges in their respective codes, showing where they grew up, who inspired them and how they managed to crack the international stage.
Luyanda Peter, owner of Urban Village, who also happens to be from the Eastern Cape, said he had always been intrigued by rural sports tournaments that take place in the province around Easter and December holidays – mostly the Amacal’eGusha Tournament (cricket tournament played in Middledrift and King Williams Town). His early childhood was inspired by the likes of Makhaya Ntini, from Mdingi Village, and Khaya Malothana from Lady Frere.
The documentary is about giving athletes from challenging backgrounds their time in the sun. “With the rise in the number of sports stars from my province, I felt that it was time for their stories to be told. I wanted to profile athletes from under-developed areas and show that people can rise from the tough conditions and lack of facilities to be world-class. Having worked on the 43:03 The Wayde van Niekerk Story documentary, I knew that there was a market for sports documentaries in SA.
“This is still a new stream in the country, but a growing trend since the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to live sport. Television channels were suddenly scrambling for content to replace the lack of live-action. I then decided to start working on a few ideas and pitched my concept to the NFVF. We were then fortunate to secure funding to produce the film that will shine the spotlight on talent from my province. This was exciting because the chosen four are sports stars that are not as popular as the usual provincial stars such as Siya Kolisi,” said Peter.
Mfuneko Ngam from Middledrift grew up playing the Amacal’eGusha Tournament. He then played for the Proteas in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. He is currently a development coach for Border Cricket.
Zintle Mpupha is the Springbok Women’s Sevens Rugby captain. She is from Njwaxa Village, Middledrift. She started playing cricket and represented SA at U19 level. She then later switched to rugby.
Lusapho April is a long-distance runner from Addo. He trained at the University of Fort Hare and Hogsback and has competed in two Olympics for SA.