SANDF’s First Female Engineer Corps Paratrooper

She aspires to play for Banyana Banyana and wants to be a commander, shouldering the responsibility of deployment.

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By Aimee Myburgh
Images supplied by Nomonde Nomtsheke

It has been said that in order to reach our dreams we must chase them. It is exactly what Nomonde Nomtsheke, a soccer player and soldier in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), is doing.

Due to her relentless dedication, Nomtsheke has recently become the first female paratrooper of the South African Engineer Corps in the SANDF. The 28-year-old was born in Bloemfontein, Free State, and developed a passion for football and an appetite for success. She did not allow any measure of despondency to impede her potential.

Nomtsheke comes from a loving family of four children, raised by a single mother who supported her passion for football. “I was active from a young age so they would come and support me … whenever I played. I would go with my big sister to practice matches. She was the one who introduced me to soccer at the age of 7 or 8. That is when I realised that I’m also in love with this thing,” she explains.

Not only is she a talented footballer, Nomtsheke also graduated  with a diploma at the Central University of Technology (CUT). “I was advised that if I go to school nobody would be able to take away my qualification,” she adds. She pursued her football career and electrical engineering qualification at the same time.

Although she has remarkably succeeded in her football career, it has not been without its share of challenges. “What I found most difficult in football is that not everyone will like you. There is favouritism, but it did not discourage me from continuing with my football career,” she says.   

“… heart of a soldier …”  

It was this same level of tenacity that allowed Nomtsheke to become the first female paratrooper of the South African Engineer Corps in the SANDF. “There is no smooth ride – you must suffer first before you reach your dreams. I remember doing extra sessions in the morning to sharpen my skills and to become more physically fit,” she explains.

Nomtsheke recalls that she had to go through strenuous training to become a paratrooper and that it required a high level of physical and mental fitness. “You must have the heart of a soldier because it is very crucial: you can end up in a wheelchair or you can die,” she says. 

Although Nomtsheke experienced pessimism, it did not stop her from qualifying. Achieving this goal took a lot of hard work and perseverance. 

“People will discourage you because you are a female. Many men went there and they did not qualify, so you find people discouraging you,” she said. Those doubts were proven wrong very quickly after she became the first woman to qualify. “I remember that there were 11 of us, 10 guys and me: they all came back, and I was the only one to qualify,” she adds.

The sky, however, is not her end goal. “I want to retire in football on a very high note. I really want to be with Banyana Banyana for at least two years. I want to do well in my career. I want to be a commander and take responsibility for deployment. I just want to go up, up, up,” she says.

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