With no financial backing or assistance from any sports federations, South Africa's number two ranked male fencer Joseph Maluleke has set-off on a mission to promote fencing in townships around South Africa. The 28-year-old, who is also a coach, will travel to various townships around South Africa with the aim of promoting the sport and nurturing the talent that SA currently possesses. Picture: Supplied
Johannesburg - Joseph Maluleke is slumped on his couch inside his Diepkloof, Soweto, home. The 28-year-old has been on his cellphone all day, constantly checking for updates on what is going on in Morocco at the All Africa Games.
Maluleke is particularly interested in what is unfolding at the Moulay Rachid National Sports Centre in Salé, where the sport of fencing is taking place.
“I should be there you know,” he says with a disheartened look on his face.
Maluleke, ranked number two in South Africa in the sabre category of fencing, has been forced to watch the action from home, as South Africa decided against sending a fencing team to Morocco.
“The reason they haven’t included a fencing team to compete in Morocco is because they say we have no chance of standing on the podium, so it’s a waste of time for them to send us.
“But how do they expect us to when we are given little to no opportunities to compete in tournaments internationally?
“Other fencers in Africa compete internationally at least once a month, so they can get the experience and training they need. I can’t remember the last time I have been sent overseas to compete and get the experience.”
But this is nothing new for Maluleke, one of SA’s most experienced fencers. Having been a professional fencer for 13 years, he has become accustomed to disappointment.
A lack of financial support and nurturing meant Maluleke has never been able to fully reach his potential.
“Our fencers can compete with anyone in the world if we are given the financial backing and support, but we’ve never been given the backing we need.
“Most recently, our number one female fencer Aphiwe Tuku defeated an Egyptian fencer. Nobody expected Aphiwe to win, but she did. So, we have the talent to compete with fencers around the world. We just need the support and help.”
Maluleke refuses to give up on the sport he has loved since he was a young boy. As of this month, has set off on a mission to promote fencing in townships around South Africa.
Maluleke, who is also a coach, will travel to various townships with the aim of promoting the sport and nurturing local talent.
His first order of business will be to visit East London townships. “I want to grow the sport in East London because the sport doesn’t really exist there,” he says.
“It’s just a few places where you find the sport. There are no more than 20 fencers in East London, so I’m trying to grow the sport there, and bring more fencers in.”
“As a coach, my aim is to qualify fencers to be in the national team, not to just fence locally and sit at home,” he says, telling of his dreams of becoming an Olympic coach.
Most young people are not aware of fencing in SA. “That is what we are trying to achieve in the Eastern Cape. We are going to start clinics and coaching to raise awareness of the sport. Whenever I meet someone, they tell me ‘we never thought we had this sport in SA, we only see it in the movies’.”
While he isn’t earning a cent from his coaching, Maluleke doesn’t mind as he loves the sport.
“I don’t get money, but I’ve got love and passion for the sport, and that’s why I’m doing this.
“I resigned from my job, but my heart was at peace with that, so I think fencing is a calling for me.
“I’m still young, and I am hoping to achieve a lot, so I won’t abandon fencing. Financially, there’s nothing coming in my pocket at the moment, but the reward of helping kids is what keeps me going.”
Maluleke relies on the rent money he receives from tenants as well as parents’ donations to help him with his coaching.
Financial muscle is needed to sustain local fencing talent.
“We have some kids taking up fencing, and then eventually drop out due to a lack of funds.”
He tells how fencing helped him care for young people. “Here in Soweto, we face a huge drug problem, especially with nyaope. I had a few fencers who were doing nyaope.
“I managed to get them off the drug - until today, they haven’t gone back. I’m proud to say that two of them are part of the national team.
“If you have passion and love for the sport, it will take you far. It has also allowed a township boy like me to travel the world and see countries I never imagined I would. The first time I stepped on to a plane was because of fencing.”
For Maluleke, fencing has enriched his life. “I think mentally and behaviour wise it has grown me in a way I never thought I would grow,” he says.