The Banyana Banyana assistant coach defied her mother’s wishes when she pursued a career in sport. But football has kept Mbuli sane through tragedy, and it’s a choice she would make again.
Life as she knows it today would have been vastly different for Thinasonke Mbuli had she obeyed her mother’s wishes. Happy Mkhwanazi-Mbuli had dreams of her only daughter becoming a chartered accountant, say, at the University of the Witwatersrand. It seemed an acceptably stable life path for a young black woman making her way through the early 2000s, when South Africa was filled with hope and a world of opportunity was beckoning.
But the strong-minded Mbuli had other ideas. She had loved sport – football in particular – since the days of kicking a ball around in the streets of Mkhondo, Mpumalanga, with her brother and cousins. She loved the game even when playing it out of sheer boredom at high school in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal.
“My mother didn’t talk to me for three months when I told her I’m going to DUT [Durban University of Technology] to study sports management. At the time I didn’t know why I wanted to do sports management. I wanted to do anything that is sports-related,” Mbuli recalls.
The 38-year-old’s rise through the rickety ranks of women’s football in South Africa to become Banyana Banyana assistant coach and coach of the women’s team at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) may not have been what her late mother wanted, but it would have filled her with deep pride nonetheless.
Memories are a source of comfort for Mbuli. She’s the only surviving member of her nuclear family of four and memories are all she has been able to cling to as, one by one, they have died. She’s found tragedy inescapable in her young life, but from sorrow she finds inspiration and motivation. She now lives and works to make her dearly departed proud.
This article was initially published at newframe