She is a Sports Broadcaster and Presenter, a Pitchside Reporter, Voice over Artist and Producer living in France. Thando Sibiya, 25 is one of the female faces of the DStv Diski Challenge.
Buzz Life News, speaks to her about her love for sport.

Can you tell me more about yourself?

I come from a closely-knit family so I’m very big on keeping family and friends close and, nurturing relationships, a quality that I believe has helped me navigate through life. 

Apart from reporting, I enjoy participating in sports by trying out various sporting codes. When I was in high school, I tried almost all the sporting codes from netball (I played in the first team for a year) to water polo (I wasn’t very good- treading water is difficult by the way). The main objectives were to keep active and for merit purposes, while participation fed a lot of curiosities such as the rules and roles within the game. 

I consider myself a language geek. I studied French at Wits but dropped it as an elective after completing my second year- juggling work at SuperSport and Red Bull and, demanding core courses didn’t leave much for the effort that is required to learn a foreign language. After completing my degree, I took up conversation and DELF exam preparation classes at Alliance Françoise which I funded with my salary from Multichoice because I’d promised myself to continue with French at a later stage after throwing in the towel at university. In 2019 I wrote and passed the DELF B2 exam, an official diploma awarded by the French Ministry of Education to certify the French language competency of candidates from outside France. I then plan to obtain the C1 and C2 qualifications and start learning another language, perhaps Spanish. 

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You are based in France, which was kicked off by the Diski Challenge correct? Can you tell me more about it and how the opportunity came about?

A move that happened at the end of September 2020 and was inspired by my background in French and a trip to Spain that I had the privilege of being awarded alongside the Golden Arrows team that won the 2017/18 season of the MDC. That trip was my first voyage to a European country and my first outside of South Africa. Having only been exposed to European sports culture through movies and television, the trip was a culture shock but in a positive way; it fuelled my ambition to become an international correspondent/ reporter and content producer. After observing the international tournaments calendar, I realized that France would be hosting a lot of major sporting events i.e., the Rugby World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics and Paralympics in 2024. After the EUROS (2016) and FIFA Women’s World Cup (2018), I had realised that there is a gap for correspondents based abroad to report specifically for the South African audience. 

What does your work involve abroad?

I work as an English language assistant at a high school in Provins, a small town located some 60km from Paris, under the TAPIF program. 

 The program is facilitated by the French Ministry of Education and the French Embassy in South Africa with the aim of fostering cultural exchange between the youths of the involved countries while exposing South African French students to French culture, the opportunity to improve their French and to find opportunities to study/ work abroad.

It is a major shift from sports reporting, but it has been a cultivating experience and potentially a pathway towards my dream of becoming an international correspondent/ producer. I strongly believe that each experience yields a lesson and I’ve embraced this detour as an opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and to get a fresh perspective. 

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Your involvement with the Diski Challenge, how and when did it begin?

My involvement with the Multichoice Diski Challenge began in September 2016 while interning at the Wits campus radio station (Voice of Wits)- an excellent learning environment, might I add- as a field reporter/ co-host for the weekly sports show/ sports newsreader. I attended the auditions and went through the various elimination stages until I was told that I would be working on a production in Durban the following weekend, which was the opening festival of the 2016/17 season at the King Zwelithini Stadium. As they say, the rest is history. 

The sports industry in the country (SA) is very male-dominated, why did you want to be a part of it and what challenges have you come across?

Growing up I was always surrounded by sport. Whether it was going to watch Moroka Swallows at the Germiston Stadium on a Sunday afternoon with my mom, sister, and my mom’s friends; actively participating at school; the banter between relatives who supported either Chiefs or Pirates and how it would at times lead to some serious disputes- it was all around me so the attraction had always been there. I hadn’t consciously planned to work in the sports industry- the initial plan was to work for an international organization hence my background in International Relations, Politics, and French. It was during my interview for the radio presenter role at VoW FM when I was asked to give five current affairs stories and I spoke mostly about sports, that the then station managers (Mike Smutrthwaite and Lerato Makate) realised and decided that I would be better suited with the sports team. And that is how I entered the sports industry. I was very lucky to have been part of a very supportive team who inspired me to learn more and even when they’d make fun of my mistakes it wouldn’t seem malicious. I’d say that the biggest challenge for me was managing boundaries in a respectful yet assertive manner. That, and learning who to trust. 

What changes would you like to make in the sports industry?

That’s a tough one. I am learning that the industry is so broad and continues to intersect with other industries, making this question tougher to tackle. In South Africa, I would love to see more sports communities for women by women. I always use Kass Naidoo’s GSport4Girls as an example and I admire the growth that the entity has seen over the years. 

They have really done a lot for the recognition of women in the industry. More of those with corporate backing and investment could do wonders for women’s sport.

Secondly, I would love to see more people with backgrounds in sports occupying positions in the departments of youth, development, and sports- I understand that they are separate entities but I think that they each contribute towards the quality of the fabric of sports society. Lastly, I would love to see more women in the sports production industry. The production tells stories and those stories influence perception. With more stories being told from a woman’s perspective, I believe that this can change the narrative and open us up to new ideas. There’s a lot more but I’ve narrowed it down to those three points. Also, more representation for handicapped athletes. 

What are your plans for the next few years career-wise?

I would like to enter the broadcast and production space this side (France). A move that would probably be best accompanied with an industry-specific qualification so going back to school is in the books as well. The aim is to tell the stories of South African athletes who are based abroad.