Meet the Match

Former Basketball Player Wants to Be Role Model

Belia Zibowa was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. She was the youngest in a family of eight – three brothers, two sisters, and her mother and father. Belia’s parents were both hard-working service professionals; her mother, a nurse and her father, an ambulance driver. Her siblings were incredibly athletic. Her oldest brothers played on the national teams for basketball and squash respectively. 

Like her oldest brother, Belia was also very tall.  As a female, however, her height made her exceptionally self-conscious. “Growing up, I used to slouch all the time. I wanted to fit in so bad. I wanted to be short like all my other friends.  And then one day I stepped onto the basketball court.  And literally, this moment changed my life. On the court, I stood up for the first time. I was in a place where my height was an advantage! I lifted my body, put my shoulders back, and stood tall.  Basketball changed the way I felt about myself. I had confidence like never before.”

On the court, Belia was a natural. Her coaches were so impressed by her abilities that they began talking to her about scholarship opportunities. Unfortunately, her parents were very busy working, leaving Belia without the support and guidance she needed to pursue this opportunity. So for Belia, she let basketball fall by the wayside. She graduated high school and started working in a local hotel to pay her way through college.  Upon graduation, Belia became the manager for a provincial women’s basketball team. 

Three years later, a former coach called Belia to ask if she would be interested in fundraising for the women’s national basketball team. He also offered her the opportunity to enroll in a Sports Management Certification program led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Right away, Belia agreed to both. She accepted the position as a fundraiser for the Bulawayo Basketball Association and later was elected Vice President of Promotions for the Basketball Union of Zimbabwe.

Since then, Belia has been promoted to the Provincial Coordinator for the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee and the Head of the Steering Committee for the Africa Outreach NGO. Belia is also finishing a post-graduate diploma in Advanced Sports Management under the IOC. Through her achievements, Belia hopes to serve as a positive example for what is possible for young girls in Zimbabwe. 

“The environment in which we live is stifling our young people.  They have lost the ability to dream.  The idea that ‘if you work hard, you can achieve it’ has been lost on this generation.  There aren’t enough jobs and the jobs that do exist, don’t always cover the bills.  We have to find a way for hard work to matter again; for dreams to become reality. I want basketball to be the tool that opens doors for these young girls. I want them to see that it is not just basketball, but opportunities for education, for travel, and for sports administration careers. I never thought I would be where I am today, that I would be going to America, but because of basketball it has become possible.” 

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