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Home / Up close and personal with the ‘Iron Lady’ of Namibian sport Monica Ndeshininga Shapwa

Up close and personal with the ‘Iron Lady’ of Namibian sport Monica Ndeshininga Shapwa

2023-11-03  Carlos Kambaekwa

Up close and personal with the ‘Iron Lady’ of Namibian sport Monica Ndeshininga Shapwa

Born in the harbour town of Walvis Bay on the 30th of October 1981, Ndeshi grew up in the city of bright lights (Windhoek) in the Wanaheda residential area, a sub-section of Katutura. She was exposed to the values of strict discipline and accountability at a very young age by her no-nonsense late old man, who happened to be an Angolan national and long-distance truck driver.

In her own words, Ndeshi was thoroughly taken through the ropes by elders in the neighbourhood, and remains forever grateful to have been raised and mentored by community parents. Often going by the name of ‘Mo-nice’, she strongly believes being raised by different parents was a privilege as she was well-looked after, an exercise which played a pivotal role in her ultimate decent upbringing.

The incumbent chairperson of the Namibia Women’s Football Association, Ndeshi was the chairwoman of the Girls Football Academy. She also occupied several high-profile portfolios in the following sequence: Vice Chairperson of Tura Magic Ladies FC (now known as FC Ongos), Executive Member of Tura Magic, Board Member of the NSC, VC of the NSC Interim Board, and Board Member of UNESCO.

Ndeshi is the proud holder of a Bachelor of Marketing honours degree, NQF 8, FIFA Administration Course, Middle- Management Programme Diploma from Northwest University, short courses like a Compliance Certificate, Digital Market, and Cosafa Women’s Leadership Certificate. Additionally, Ndeshi was awarded as the best marketing honours student in her final year at varsity.

She started her elementary schooling at Wanaheda Primary School, to be renamed Martti Ahtisaari Primary. Fortunately, the school placed lots of emphasis on sport and education, with learners confined to classrooms from morning until 13h00, while required to remain put for sporting activities after the one-hour break. The super-energetic young Ndeshi took up netball and hockey, though netball was her preferred choice.

“I decided against pursuing hockey, and started playing serious netball in 1990 under the tutorship of my first primary school teacher, Ms Kazondu-Tjipueja”, recalls Ndeshi with a twinkle in her girlish eyes. She represented the school’s first team, carving herself a spot on the senior team while still wet behind the ears. Ndeshi would play for both the junior and senior teams on the same day.

However, as fate dictated, she met prominent basket rattler Ndemu Hipondoka through her daughter Ashley, whom she befriended and made it her habit to escort home after schoo,l even though she lived nearby.

Ndemu often came to the school in the afternoon to watch her daughter, and took it upon herself to polish the young athletes’ shooting skills, teaching them how to position themselves on the court. Despite her rapid progress, Ndeshi fell short of representing her motherland at the junior level, as the game of netball was systematically tailored for players from privileged schools across town.

Nonetheless, she rose to prominence when she went to further her academic aspirations at the revered A. Shipena Secondary School. She excelled in both academics and sports, receiving several high-profile awards in the process.

Ndeshi represented the school in the netball and basketball disciplines with great aplomb, playing for the junior and senior teams, and was named the best junior player for the 1996 - 1998 calendar year. A noted sharp long-range shooter, Ndeshi joined Tigers, featuring for Ingwe between 1997 and 2000, touring Bellville in Cape Town twice under the tutorship of Donatha Ngunovandu.

However, she developed itchy feet and joined the Khomasdal outfit Civics, but competition for starting berths was tough. “Civics only had one team, which created an unwanted selection headache for the coach. So, I teamed up with Emsie Isaacs and Annah Ipinge to form a new team, which led to the unavoidable birth of Bethlehem United Netball Club”.

The new kid on the block announced her arrival on the big stage with jaw-dropping displays on the courts. The newly-established outfit created a safe space for girls in Bethlehem, recruiting the finest talents from the nearby Ella du Plessis High School. United unearthed national team material in the form of Vetjee Kazonganga and Delilah Keja, to mention but a few.

The multi-gifted Ndeshi tried her hand at basketball when the UN Plaza in Katutura opened its doors. While training netball, the young girls met coach Marcel Thomas, who asked them if they would be interested in learning how to play basketball.

“We were overwhelmed, and accepted the challenge. That led to the birth of the A. Shipena basketball team. In our first attempt, we reached the quarterfinals, before clinching the Khomas Schools Basketball League by beating Dawid Bezuidenhout. In 2000, I was the only remaining squad membe,r and had to recruit new players. I represented the U/19 NSSU basketball touring team in Swaziland.

“We later formed Predators, the sole representative of Katutura. We were the most-feared team, as we trained and played at the UN Plaza. I later joined Trans-Namib Divas before hanging up my togs due to persistently niggling knee injuries”.

In 2010, Ndeshi was installed as team manager of Spartans, campaigning in the Khomas second-tier league under the stewardship of Gary Grotzinger. The latter was her department manager at NDTC, until Tura Magic was promoted to the Premiership.

When Times Tjongarero approached Ndeshi to become the team’s general manager, she gladly agreed, but on one condition: “First take the team to the Premier League before I join”. Fast forward, and she went on to become the first general team manager before being elevated to the plum position as an exco member.

Ndeshi was among the very first female team managers in Premiership football history, overseeing the day-to-day budget and players’ welfare while simultaneously acting as a liaison officer between the players and exco.

Next stop, she was appointed Vice Chair of the CAF Women’s Confederation Cup Hospitality Committee of the NFA, the first of its kind in SADC, in 2014. They were responsible for all catering, including the teams’ dressing room meals, volunteers, media, caterers and VIPs. After the successful hosting of the continental tournament, Ndeshi was approached by Jackie Gertze and Jacqui Shipanga to join women’s football.

“As soon as my tenure at the NSC ended, I switched allegiance to women’s football”. Coincidentally, she joined WF after Tura Magic took over JS Academy and rebranded it Tura Magic Ladies. “It was the most important decision I’ve ever made in my entire football career. I saw women with passion burning in their eyes when they shared their stories and challenges with me”.

Subsequently, she was voted the first chairperson of the NWFA under the NC. “We devised a strategy as we aimed to have regions playing competitive football to add to the Girlz & Goalz programme for the youth, and set up a committee to devise a five-year strategic plan that consisted of Jackie Gertze, Jacqueline Shipanga, Astrid Vries, and different departments within the NFA, as we sought an inclusive strategic plan.

“With the assistance of FIFA, we
managed to complete the plan and launch it before commissioning the first phase, regional participation. Additionally, we have launched WF in all 14 regions, while delivering the first NWFA constitution for both the NFA and the regions”.

In 2016, Ndeshi was appointed a board member of the NSC, and immediately knuckled down to some serious business, roping in her homeboy and childhood buddy Knowledge Ipinge and Jessica Jacobs to deliver a successful Sports Awards ceremony.

The trio burnt the midnight oil preparing the event, and Ndeshi was instrumental in delivering the first multi-sports youth games, in addition to ensuring that the hosting of the annual sports awards is decentralised.

2023-11-03  Carlos Kambaekwa

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