By Charles Leyman Kachitsa
She now wherever she goes exhibit an aura of authority and of one being in the corporate world class. Could be all those years of success playing for the Malawi national team. Some may say she has always been a star even for her local team, in fact since her teen years.
It is not always that people relate sportsmen or women with subjects such as mathematics, yet any game you can mention is a game of numbers and in most cases it involves such things as geometric angles. A game like netball involves constantly remembering elevation and angles if you are to achieve success.
It is no wonder therefore, as one of the wonderful stories in sports to have one netball player Merriam Simengwa Ndlovu progress from being a netball player to be a Finance specialist in one of South Africa’s biggest banks. This should be an inspirational story to upcoming netball players and sportsmen in general that after their playing career they can be successful in other fields as well.
I caught up with with Merriam Simengwa Ndlovu to ask what her journey has been like from a successful international netball player to the corporate world as financial specialist. Here below in full is what we discussed in form of questions and answers:
What is your position now and qualifications career wise?
I am currently working as Conformance and risk Specialist in Procurement Department at ABSA Bank (RSA). I have BCOM in Supply Chain Management and PGD in Risk Management, which I obtained at Management College of South Africa.
Some may want to know your Full name, family brief story, where did you grow up?
I am Merriam Simengwa Ndlovu aka Midu during my playing days and nick named Shamwari after my maiden international game in Zimbabwe. I am the fifth born in a family of eight. There were five girls and three boys in my family. My early childhood was in Chitawira before we moved to Kanjedza. The Simengwas are originally from Chitipa.
Which schools did you attend in Malawi?
I started my school at Chitawira Primary school where the famous Mr Chidengu Gama was the headmaster. When the family moved to Kanjedza, I got transferred to Limbe Primary school and I thought that I had escaped from Chidengu but he soon followed me to the same school. I later joined Limbe girls from where I was selected to pursue my Secondary School at Chichiri.
How did you start netball? Which teams did you play for in Malawi?
I used to play street netball just mucking around with my sisters and friends. At Limbe Primary, I played a little bit. My late sister Josephine is the one who took me out of my comfort zone and went with me to try out with ADMARC Tigress. I recall how intimidated I felt on the first day as I saw how the rest of the players looked physically. I was skinny and I thought that I stood no chance. My height was a great advantage as a defender. I am grateful to Ms Maggie Kadangwe who encouraged and supported me and my very first coach Ms Grace Sithole. After a few training sessions, I made it into the team and played along my sister. My little sister Andrina soon joined the team as well and we were known as the Simengwa sisters. ADMARC Tigress nicknamed Kau-Kau is the only team I played for.
Anyone who inspired you as a young girl?
My late sister Josephine embraced and encouraged me to play netball and it always felt special to play together as defenders. My other inspiration was my late father who worked for Daily Times as a photographer and our game pictures made it to the newspapers. That was a very big boost on my part.
Your National team duties, do you remember when? Your memorable trip/ game?
We were put through the selection process and I was happy to have impressed so much that I was selected to represent my country in 1987. Our coach was Mr Sayenda. I believe Mr Sayenda deserves a special recognition in Malawi for his passion, insights and techniques in the development of the game in Malawi. He revolutionised the sport, which helped put Malawi on the map. I recall my first national duty in Zimbabwe and we all had been told about how good Zambia was. Our coach Sayenda set down with us and drilled us through some paces and approach to the game. By the time we played Zambia, we were too good for them. It was the defining moment for us as we also won the trophy.
Any memorable moments in your career, both as player and now?
Winning the tournament in Botswana was one of the great memorable moments in my career. The other one the time we were landing in Maseru, Lesotho. In the flight, we had three families. The three Simengwa sister, The Mpoola twins Grace and Gertrude and the Waya sisters Emmie and Mary. It was one the scariest landing that I ever experienced and we finally touched down it was a great relief. We also had the Tsonga sisters Felia and Grace but they were not on the flight.
Any low moments?
My low moment was losing my father who passed away suddenly in May 1987. We had played a game on Saturday and he was there and took pictures that appeared on the Newspaper on Monday. I was still happy to have once again appeared in the newspaper when the news came that on the very Monday my father had passed away. I was devastated with the loss and worried about my future.
I remain thankful to ADMARC as they extended paying fees to their netball players as well, because previously only football players had the privilege.
How do you see Malawi netball now?
I am happy with the direction that netball has taken and thrilled that I was part of the original team that was coached by Mr Sayenda that raised the bar. I love the fact that now netball is becoming more and more of a profession and Malawi is on the map and has had a positive impact on the game and culture worldwide. I am thrilled that we have brought in more fun to the game including dancing. I was happy to read a few years back that The Silver ferns (New Zealand) did a Malawi boggie woggie to celebrate a win. I am so proud of our netballers in Europe and Australia.
Any advice to the upcoming netball players?
When I used to play netball, it was more of a talent and hobby not necessary a career as such but things have changed. My advice would be to remain focused on the game and to fully embrace the talent. It takes a lot of discipline, dedication and sacrifice. The challenges are countless but they should never give up.
Any general comments?
I wish the current Queens all the best and to keep on working harder. We only used to have South Africa as our rivals in Africa but more African national teams are catching up. To remain the power house we need to keep the fire burning and remain dedicated and focused only on the game