The Sunday News
WITH a supportive sporting family, the sky was bound to be the limit for Fungai Sibanda who had a glittering basketball career.
Her dad played lower division football, her elder sister Samukeliso (Sawu) was a basketball star for all conquering Peking Stars while the eldest sibling Matambanashe Sibanda starred for Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Saints.
Nokuthaba, the eldest sister was among the founders of Zimbabwe Saints Queens as the sporting bug took its place in the family.
Born on 23 February 1976, Fungai went to St Columbu’s High School, a stone’s throw from the family home in Makokoba.
She started playing basketball at the school in 1992 as the sport at St Columbu’s tried to reclaim its mojo in schools sport after years of dominance of volleyball in the region with players like Jabulani Nyabadza, Chrispen Manyange, Sere Chirenje and Sipho Tshuma.
In her first tournament at Ihlathi a school that had produced stars like Mamani Phiri and Chris Ndebele, Witness Martin, Fungai found herself walking away with the Most Valuable Player Award.
“I was surprised to win the MVP award in my first tournament, many were to follow in my career with my first Matabeleland call up in 1993,” said Fungai.
She joined Highlanders Basketball Club and played alongside Unita Dube, Angela Chikomba, Vimbai Muhomba and Abigail Little. The team was a dominant factor and represented Matabeleland in the famed Kodak National Championships.
She played for a year under the watchful eyes and talent nurturing pair of Harold Screammer Tshabalala and the late Jackson Nkau.
Peking Stars, who were every teenager’s dream club because of good sponsorship by the Chicksen and Easons sponsorship, was her next destination. She continued to play and shine at the highest level of club basketball.
She was part and parcel of provincial teams up to 2000.
She excelled as a shot blocker using her height to good effect in thwarting the opposition. She excelled on both backboard rebounds.
Sinda Mono was her coach at Peking Stars and managed to get the best out of the lanky star who got her first national team call up in 1998.
At Peking Stars she played alongside Rose Marshall, Thembi Mpofu, Bianca and Justine Tembo.
After nine years of competitive basketball, Fungai retired when she fell pregnant with her first kid Shadel who played for Zimbabwe and daughter Shamelah has played for Bulawayo Province.
“I quit the sport when I fell pregnant with my first kid. I enjoyed my playing days, basketball was very competitive during those days, the vibe and hype was massive,” said Fungai.
“I was inspired to take up basketball by my sister Samukeliso, she had a big influence on me. Also my father was very instrumental, she supported us in sport and I donned jersey Number 4, which was his favourite. Dad would come and watch some of my matches,” said Fungai.