Although netball has stumbled and has found it increasingly difficult to get the sport growing at a senior level, one of Namibia’s rare netball exports, Jatjinda ‘Toetsie’ Kambatuku, is living the dream in England.
Kambatuku has been playing for Team Northumbria in the North-east of England, since 2011, a netball team under the Northumbria University in Newcastle. She was named as her team’s MVP for the season, an accolade which she says has been an immense honour.
“It is an award given every end of the season to the player that played well and most consistently throughout the season. It was a phenomenal moment for me to be called up to receive the trophy in front of my home crowd. It showed off my hard work on court, and it was a very proud moment,” says Kambatuku.
The season has been a rather forgettable one for her netball team, as Team Northumbria finished bottom of the Netball Super league League table, with three points and 39 behind leaders Manchester Thunder and only one win in 14 matches. However, despite this, on a personal level, Kambatuku explains that it the season has gone well for her.
“The season was not the best for us overall as I believe we could have done better, personally it was one of my best,” she says, which eventually lead to her being named MVP of her team.
This, she says, has been building from last season, where she began challenging her own playing style. “I usually play Goal Shooter but last season I challenged myself and tried the goal attack position which turned out great. Played both positions depending on which team we played,” Kambatuku states.
After five years, since making her debut for Northumbria in 2010, Kambatuku has progressed, becoming not only a senior member on the international front, but for club netball as well. She was offered a scholarship to study at the Northumbria University in 2013.
She describes her time playing netball in the UK as the best time of her life because she is doing what she loves. “It has been a real honour and I thank God for the talent and I will always be thankful to Joan Smith for believing in me and making this possible for me. Personally I have developed in my career and I’m a much better player, the style and level of play here challenges and strengthens me. The opportunity to further my studies, play netball at a high level and being trained by top coaches has been a blessing to me,” Kambatuku says.
Joan Smit, the African representative of International Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA) helped facility the move for the Namibian captain initially. However life has not been a complete breeze in Newcastle, as she declares injuries, having to balance school work and netball, weather, even the food taste in the UK as some of the challenges she has had to face and overcome in her time there.
Having played netball in England for the last five years, she describes the netball culture there as rather top notch and competitive. “England is ranked third in the world and has the second highest netball league after the ANZ, a combination of Australia and New Zealand team. The league is very competitive and the pace of the game is fast, compared to our league in Namibia,” she says.
On the sport back on home soil, which she says is never far from her heart, she says a return to the basics is needed if the sport is ever to improve in Namibia.
“I think we need to go back to the fundamentals, like increasing participation and development to make it our number one focus. We need to work hand in hand with schools to make sure that netball becomes one of the most popular activities in schools. Having a good structure for the grass root level all the way through to the senior team will be the only way to get Namibia back on the map. You can’t produce good players if you don’t invest the development process,” Kambatuku said.
She further added, “An introduction of youth development officers, talent scouters would help with the implementation of the development plans and we must use people with influence to help us, we have our very own legends Joan Smith and Agnes Tjongarero and asking them for direction would be great.”
Kambatuku is one of Namibia’s most capped netball players and made her debut at the 2005 at the COSANA Ball Games.