Cape Town - Facing several obstacles head-on, University of the Western Cape (UWC) football star and Banyana Banyana goalkeeper Regirl Ngobeni strikes a balance between sport and education with resilience.
Obtaining her Bachelor of Education degree in standard time, Ngobeni was among hundreds of students who wore their graduation gowns at the first in-person graduation since lockdown.
Ngobeni, who represented South Africa at under-17 and under-20 levels before earning her first Banyana Banyana call-up last year, said soccer had been part of her life since she was young, and she owed her journey to her love of the game.
“I can literally say that soccer plays an important role in the person I am today. I started playing soccer when I was 13, so ever since I’ve been playing and I never really took a break from it.
“It also played a big role in my academic achievements as well. I’ve been a student-athlete my whole life now. It has opened doors I never really thought it would. My qualifications came through soccer; I’ve travelled because of soccer. It gave me a life that I will forever be grateful for.
“When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a teacher. I started studying a Diploma in Sports Science at the University of North West Pukke, and I was also playing there as well. After I completed, UWC offered me an opportunity to study further, and I decided to start my teaching career. I made sure I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Today I am a qualified teacher.
“The reason behind wanting to be a teacher is that I wanted to be the teacher I never had when growing up and during my primary school days. Trust me, children need someone who can motivate them to be the best that they can be. So, with everything that I’ve achieved through sports, I feel like I can be a good example, and I think for them - hearing it from someone like me would really motivate them to be the best version of themselves. I’m big on changing the narrative of the next generation, and the best place for that is a school," said Ngobeni.
UWC head coach Thinasonke Mbuli said Ngobeni was the perfect example of an athlete as her achievements only enhance her position in society.
“The challenge the girls face is that they don't get equal opportunities as boys, and unfortunately women in football have to work harder to get the recognition they deserve.
"Ngobeni is the perfect example of what we want from our athletes. We know it's not easy to balance getting an education and sports, but we always encourage them to focus more on their education rather than football because women's football is not professional in our country,“ said Mbuli.
Advising young girls on how to live a life with purpose, Ngobeni added that anything can be achieved if one puts their mind to it.
“I have always been a top performer in class while playing soccer because when I’m presented with new challenges every day, I always find ways to deal with them. That’s why I don’t lose focus when it comes to balancing my education and sport because from my perspective, if I puts my mind to something, anything is possible.
“Also, if I had to advise young girls, I would say that they should be the best that they can be, honestly. They can achieve everything they want if they put their minds to it. It’s possible, it’s doable, and there are opportunities out there. They need to put themselves out there and always remember that in everything they do, education is important because it’s something that no one can take away from them," said Ngobeni.