After playing the sport she loves the most for more than 20 years, Mafolofolo stalwart player, Josephine Ntshinogang, is calling it a day. She said by next year, she would only be watching from the sidelines as she felt she had played her part.
Ntshinogang’s retirement is a big blow to volleyball because there now is only one female veteran left in the ladies volleyball league. Shirley Moleele, who plays for Kutlwano together with Ntshinogang, is in her thirties like Ntshinogang while the rest are mainly youths in their early or mid twenties.
The duo always led by example at their respective teams no matter how tough the situation was. Their teams dominated the volleyball league for a long time.
Ntshinogang’s decision to call it a day has put Mafolofolo’s dominance under threat because she was the team’s vital cog up front. Ntshinogang, who cites work commitments as the main reason for her retirement, believed that the current crop of players she is leaving behind have what it takes to emulate her. She, however, said she would not be leaving for good, as she would always help where her services are needed.
“I have been contemplating to retire competitively from volleyball for a long time because, as you might be aware, sports in Botswana is played for leisure,” said the athlete. “But if you have passion for the sport it is really difficult to quit. I can still play for a few more years but currently, life challenges do not allow that. I also want to give youngsters a chance because I have contributed a lot to volleyball in this country. But I will always be there for Mafolofolo or any other volleyball area where I can utilise my expertise.”
Ntshinogang is not only a veteran player with immense experience at Mafolofolo, but she is also inspirational. Every time when she was playing, she did not only launch scathing attacks but she commanded her team well. Her inspiration will definitely be missed at Mafolofolo.
Ntshinogang has been playing volleyball for the past 21 years and is the most decorated volleyball player locally. Of the 21 years she played, eleven of them were spent with the national team. Currently, her team is looking for a fourth consecutive JB Sports league title. In the first week of December they will meet their arch rivals Kutlwano in the finals.
If their current form is anything to go by, it is only a matter of time Mafolofolo are crowned champions. They recently beat Kutlwano 3-0 in a league game.
Ntshinogang is also adamant that they will edge out Kutlwano and it would be her great retirement gift.
“I am not taking anything away from Kutlwano, but I think we have an advantage over them. We have psychological advantage because we have been defeating them for a long time. Most of our players have international experience because they play for the national team. In addition to that, we train very hard.”
Ntshinogang was also part of the Mafolofolo team that made history early this year by becoming the first local team to reach the semifinals of the Africa Club championship games in Mauritius.
Last year, she also led Botswana to a historic Zone VI championships victory at Otse Police College.
After the victory, some detractors said Botswana won because some regional powerhouses, like South Africa and Mauritius, were absent.
Ntshinogang, however, shrugged off the reports.
“Zambian teams used to give us problems in the past, but nowadays we easily wallop them. Maybe things could have been different at the tournament. South Africa and Mauritius are powerful but we are at par with them in the field of play.
Remember that at club championship tournament, we beat a Mauritian team,” she said.
On why the national volleyball team always falls, the first thing she stresses out is youth structures, which she said are well advanced in many countries that dominate African volleyball. Ntshinogang said that volleyball naturally needs tall players and there were only a few of them in Botswana.
Ntshinogang herself has nurtured a good number of players while she was a teacher at Lotsane Senior Secondary a few years ago. She cherishes that some of the players are currently taking the country by storm at both club and national level.
Some of her prospects are Johannes Ralegoreng, Odirile Sibanda, Mosetsana Tumotumo, and Mpho Mothobi. Ralegoreng and Sibanda are pillars of the national team. Sibanda’s deft skills have since earned him a scholarship to study Physical Education in Cuba.
Tumotumo is also doing wonders for Mafolofolo while Mothobi is doing the same at Mahalapye-based side, Mag Stimela.
“I am very happy for those players and when I was their coach at Lotsane Secondary I always told them that they cannot excel without discipline no matter how skilled they could be. They listened to me and they progressed tremendously because some of them are playing for the national team,” she said.