The revival of wheelchair basketball

The revival of wheelchair basketballThabo Ntsoeu and Kabelo Molehe posing for a picture at LoveLife Y Centre in Botshabelo. Photo: Teboho Setlofane/Health-e News

Thabo Ntsoeu has never been able to walk but this hasn’t stopped him from being a sportsman. Basketball is the only sport he has known and recently he has committed to reviving a team for wheelchair basketball in Botshabelo.

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There was once a wheelchair basketball team in Botshabelo, Free State, but it collapsed after allegations that the managers misused money which was received from private donors, government and competitions. Ntsoeu believes all wheelchair-bound persons must be active by being involved in sporting activities rather than being inactive at home.

“We must stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start enjoying life even on a wheelchair,” he says. 

Keep active

Speaking at this years’ Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital Sports Day, Musa Dlamini who plays for the country’s national team AmaWheelaBoys, challenged disabled people to be active in sporting codes of their choice. “When you are disabled it does not mean you cannot do anything, you can do sports which can even take you overseas,” he says. 

During the interview with OurHealth, a resilient Ntsoeu insisted on showing off some of his basketball skills like how to pick up the ball from the floor. With a smile on his face, he borrows a ball from Kabelo Molehe who is the Mpintshi for physical fitness at Botshabelo LoveLife Y Centre, he begins to block the ball on the floor against the rear wheel of his wheelchair with the right hand and then wheels on with the left hand. As the wheelchair moves forward, the wheel turns with the ball thus lifting it from the ground until he can put it on his lap with ease. Young people who watch him are amazed and applaud. “Our life has not ended here on the wheelchair there are a lot of opportunities out there waiting to be explored,” he says.

How NGOs cope

Edu-Hope Africa Foundation has just started training 300 non-governmental organisations in Botshabelo to improve their administration so that they comply with all the requirements when making applications for funding. Molefe Letuka from Edu-Hope Africa says they also train non-governmental organisations (NGO) directors in various business opportunities so that they can have income without collapsing the organisations. “In the next six months we will be making sure that the organisations comply with requirements and that nobody will say they cannot help NGOs in Botshabelo because they are not complying,” she says. 

Palesa Lephephelo, the founding director of Amohelang Lesedi, a non-profit organisation (NPO), says they use their own funds to support their organisation. “We prioritise the people that we serve to the extent of using our family resources to do the work of the NGO but I am glad to know of other business opportunities that will generate income for us because working with the community is a burdening task,” she says.

Whilst Ntsoeu has recruited enough number of wheelchair basketball players, his biggest challenge remains to source sponsorship for athletic wheelchairs, playing kits, and basketball balls. Athletic wheelchairs are custom made to fit an individual and this makes it very expensive. – Health-e News

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.