By Neha Aggarwal and Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer
When 16-year-old Ndwabasini Ezile was growing up he never knew who his father was. With his mother playing the dual role, Ezile did not feel the vacuum.
Growing up in Mthatha, a main town of the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality in Eastern Cape province of South Africa, was a challenge in itself, but with the motherly care, the young Ezile never missed anything.
But in 2012 when Ezile was 12, he decided to embrace table tennis and today, the teenager has established himself as one of South Africa’s prospect in the sport.
Narrating how it all started, the grade nine student of Alphendale High School in East London said: “I did not miss the presence of my father growing up because my mother took care of me very well. I was born in Mthatha and my mother teaches in a crèche. She supported me and my sister in whatever we wanted to do. She might not be able to provide everything for us, but we understood that because she was always there for us. She knew I love sports and she wanted me to attend the High Performance Centre (HPC) in Pretoria. In 2012 when I started playing table tennis, I represented my school in inter-school competition and I become the regional cadet champion. My school in Mthatha – Kasa Junior School gave me all the support I needed even until I entered the cadet national team of South Africa in 2015, where I went with the team to the 2015 African Junior Championships in Mauritius,”
Ezile’s talents and hard work caught the attention of coach Sipho Vika, who owns the Eastern London-based Quigney Table Tennis Club. Impressed with Ezile’s success, he decided to adopt the young boy.
However, life took a different turn. Prior to meeting Coach Sipho Vika, Ezile lost his mother, Andiswa in 2014 and this really affected him psychologically.
“When I lost my mother, it was really painful because she was there for me. She supported my passion for table tennis, sometimes also providing me some of my equipment with the little she was earning from her work. Unfortunately she died in 2014 and it was really painful for me. I had to stay with my sister, who is also schooling in Nthatha.”- Ezile Ndwabasini
He continued, “But in January 2016, I got a call from my class teacher who told me that Coach Sipho Vika wanted to adopt me and cater to all my needs. Although I knew the coach but we never met personally. It was later that I was told that he has been monitoring me and he likes the way I play. So when the opportunity came I grabbed and up till now, I have cherished every moment I have spent with him. My coach has stood in for my late mother and he has been supporting me in schooling as well as training. So I am grateful to him for adopting me as his son and continue to support me in whatever I want. This alone had given me hope that my dream of dominating table tennis in South Africa will become a reality.”
A member of the South African boys’ team for the 2016 ITTF World Junior Championships, Ezile admitted the superiority of other teams while acknowledging that he has learnt a lot from competing in the championship. “I think my eyes are now opened to the level I am aiming at in table tennis. I watched and played with some of the best players in the world and this alone has ignited my confidence that with hard work I can fulfill my dream of becoming one of the best in the sport. Prior to the competition, I was actually looking up to South African players but now my role model is Ma Long because I can see the quality of the Chinese star in me. From now on, they will see a new Ezile who wants to rule and dominate table tennis in South Africa.”
For the teenager, representing South Africa was indeed a privilege which he would not want to bundle. “I want to continue wearing my national colors but I knew I must also work hard to improve my game. I have learnt from the Asians and Europeans and I will replicate all I have picked in training. My aim is to become South African champion in few years and with more hard work, I am sure I can make it happen”
“Also, I will like to thank my coach for his support and efforts on me and to tell him that I will surely make him proud. Table tennis has become my life and I will continue playing as long as I live. Through the sport, my dream is becoming a reality.”- Ezile Ndwabasini
As they say, where there is a will, there is a way. Ezile’s passion and dedication for the sport coupled with the support from his coach is invaluable. One day, he will definitely reach the pinnacle that he aims to reach.