Gems’ Ndlovu’s rags to riches tale WHAT A GEM OF A GIRL . . . Nobukhosi Ndlovu is living her dream as a Zimbabwe senior netball team player.

Veronica Gwaze-Sports Reporter

EVERY chance that the Zimbabwe senior netball team mid-court star Nobukhosi Ndlovu gets to put on the netball kit carries some sentimental significance to her.

Behind the lethal 22-year-old mid-court player, who makes a living through netball, is a fragile girl who has been robbed by death three times.

The Gems star lost her father and mother when she was seven and eight respectively.

Together with her brother, Nkosi, they had to be taken in by their aunt who also died four years later, leaving the duo at odds.

Nkosi, who was 16 by then, despite his age, had to relocate to South Africa to find a job and provide for his sister.

“You can imagine at that age losing everything that means life to you,” said Ndlovu, who still finds it hard to talk about the loss.

“It was tough. I was hopeless and felt like the world had shut down on me not knowing that God had a future plan.”

Young as he was, Nkosi would take any menial jobs that came his way to send his meagre earnings back home and ensure his sister had the basic needs. 

To keep herself occupied, Ndlovu would spend most of her time on the netball court.

It is here that she was spotted by Sikhulile, a Bulawayo High School that went on to offer her a scholarship.

As she proved to be a star at the school, she was also drafted into Freestars Academy where she perfected her craft.

“I was now staying alone at an age where I needed parental guidance and closure,” she said.

“My brother was also young but had to work, he sacrificed for me and it eats me up.

“I intend to do something for him just to put a smile on his face which is why I am grateful for every chance I get to step on court.”

Ndlovu bagged countless accolades with Sikhulile High School where he was also drafted into the Young Gems fold.

Visibly attracting interest in the game, she was forced to make an early crack into professional netball as she found home at Goldreef Netball Club.

She recalls the relief that came with the netball earnings as she could now manage to pay her own rentals and general upkeep.

“Life was all about pushing harder daily because netball had become life for me,” she said.

With the hard work indeed paying off, last year Ndlovu made debut for the Gems at the Pent Series in Windhoek, Namibia. 

At the tournament where the Gems finished off bronze medallists, Ndlovu made it on to the first seven in all the matches.

Proving to be a vital cog on the then Lloyd Makunde-led charges, she also featured in the first seven at the African Championships at the same venue a few days later.

Ndlovu had been roped onto the team alongside Sinethemba Ncube, Lynnette Tanhira,and Priscilla Ndlovu following the retirement of some renowned players after the 2019 Netball World Cup.

The new introductions were part of the rebuilding exercise for the Gems in their 2023 Netball World Cup preparations.

In one tournament, Ndlovu grew from the young girl, who dreamt of donning the Gems outfit, to being feted like a queen.

“It was an opportunity that I will never forget considering where I come from,” she said.

Ironically, in one of her interviews before her call-up, she revealed her dream of making it into the first seven.

Unknown to her was that a fortnight later she would live her dream as she wrote a colourful debut script. “It was all about making an impact for me, you know that for your source of income you just can do anything.

“The camp was different, I had to double my work rate, it worked, I was there brushing shoulders with the finest,” she said.

Ndlovu, however, had to forgo her second call-up, the Tri-Nations that were held in Malawi earlier this year due to other commitments.

She then bounced back for the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers held in Pretoria, South Africa, where the Gems grabbed a slot for the global showcase. The agile Gems’ skills are steadily earning her a legion of fans.

“Camp was harder this time, we wanted to qualify, so personally l had to train hard daily to make the cut.

“We played as a team to make sure that we qualify, so for the World Cup, I want to be of value and above all, it is life for me.

“With my national team gains, l have built my parents’ graves and my next target is to install tombstones,” she held back tears.

Gems assistant coach, Tatenda Shinya, described Ndlovu as a rare talent.

“She has the sting, discipline… this is just her beginning,” he said.

“She fits well into all the mid court positions, highly defensive and equally good on the offence which makes her just a complete player,” said Shinya.

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