“After all the work I put into training and raising the funds, I felt like I was robbed of my international debut again.”

Second-year BSc Computer Science student, Benefactor Mokoena (21), plays Ultimate Frisbee for the Wits Ultimate Frisbee Club. He was selected to represent the South African Men’s National team (Mambas) at the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) 2020 World Ultimate and Guts Championships in Leeuwarden, Netherlands that was due to take place between July 11 and 18.

Unfortunately, for Mokoena, his international aspirations were hindered by the global covid-19 pandemic, which has caused the cancelation and postponement of various sporting events all around the world.

Mokoena shares with Wits Vuvuzela, how he prepared and got excited for his international debut, as well as how the pandemic all but dashed his international dreams.

As told to Tshepo Thaela

I started playing frisbee for the Wits Kudus in 2018. I stumbled across it at the Walter Milton Oval [on Wits Main campus] and saw people throwing what looked like a plate. Everyone was welcoming and keen to teach me the game. At our first team meeting, the captain at the time, Paul Nussey, told us about the opportunity that frisbee offered, to represent South Africa internationally. “Imagine representing South Africa at Worlds in a sport where you throw a plate,” he said and mentioned some teammates that had already done that. That’s when I first set the goal to represent South Africa with the u/24 (Wild Dogs) team.

I spent the whole of 2018 preparing for the first round of Wild Dogs trials that would take place at the end of the year. I would always spend extra time after practice, working on my throws and improving myself as a frisbee player. Eventually, I tried out for the team and unfortunately, I didn’t get selected. That was heart-breaking. I felt that the selection process wasn’t fair because there were some people that were selected that I knew I could outperform. It was difficult coming back to frisbee, but I wanted to prove a point. I was worthy of playing for my country.

The trials for the South African Men’s team (Mambas) were posted on the Wits frisbee Whatsapp group in late 2019. I saw this as an opportunity to set new goals. This time around, the coach was someone that had coached me before, so I knew he was aware of my potential. I tried out and made the Mambas team, which felt great. It felt good to achieve finally reach the goal I had set around 2 years ago. 

Although I was celebrating, work wasn’t over. I had to find a sponsor for the R32 000 required to cover the expenses of the of travel for the tournament in mid-July and the training camp to Cape Town on March 14 and  15. I managed to find someone to sponsor half of the fees, but only if I could come up with the other half. I raised R8000 before the training camp was cancelled as the first cases of covid-19 in South Africa were reported and domestic travel stopped. 

The team received the announcement from the WFDF which said that the tournament would be “postponed/cancelled”. It was devastating. After all the work I had put into training and raising the funds, I felt like I had been robbed of my international debut. As we speak, my team and I are still waiting for communication from the WFDF about whether the tournament is going to be postponed or officially canceled. 

In the unlikely scenario of the tournament going ahead, I’d like to make sure that I’ll be in the best condition to play. I’m still keeping fit with morning jogs and home workouts like push-ups, sit-ups and crunches. I want to make sure that I am ready for action when an opportunity comes knocking at my door again.   

FEATURED IMAGE: Benefactor Mokoena representing the Wits Ultimate Frisbee team at the South African Nationals tournament in 2019. PHOTO: Tshepo Thaela