News Brief
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09 July 2016: South Africa defender Noko Matlou (4) and United States forward Christen Press (12) both attempt to head the ball during an international friendly soccer match between South Africa and USA at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. USA won 1-0.

​Banyana Banyana Secure Equal Pay After South African Government & SAFA Called Out

The South African government and South African Football Association (SAFA) have committed to paying Banyana Banyana the same amount as Bafana Bafana players after being called out by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

According to the Sowetan, SAFA has announced plans to increase Banyana Banyana's meagre pay following the team's recent COSAFA cup win. This comes after political opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), called out SAFA (South African Football Association) and the South African government for Banyana Banyana's poor remuneration despite their consistent performance internationally. The EFF made calls for South Africa's women's national team to actually be paid more than their male counterparts. SAFA's National Executive Committee responded quickly because of mounting public pressure concerning the plea which has been tabled many times before.

According to TimesLIVE,The EFF reportedly wrote a critical letter addressed to SAFA, calling for the bodies to pay Banyana Banyana more following their fourth consecutive COSAFA cup win.

"This victory should signal the need to expedite equal pay and sponsorship of all national teams regardless of gender. Banyana Banyana has long proven itself to be a national asset and a source of courage in the midst of despair and despondency‚ as a result of worst economic downturn‚ the Covid-19 pandemic and most importantly‚ the rampant racism being visited upon black Africans.

SAFA spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi said equal pay for the senior men and women's teams is "a work in progress," as reported by BusinessDay. Chimhavi went on to further explain the investment problem that SAFA allegedly faces. He explained that corporate investments and sponsorships traditionally pour more money into the national male team. He further pointed out that there is "a huge potential for growth of the women's game".

"This is an issue which we are mindful of and the Safa NEC has always said that they are looking into the possibilities of making sure that whatever is done for the senior male national teams‚ should also be applied to the senior female national team."

Calls for Banyana Banyana to be paid equally to Bafana Bafana have been on the increase. Danny Jordaan, President of SAFA, promised that the women's team would get equal pay last year but Banyana Banaya reportedly did not receive the increase.

Bafana Bafana have not won any international, continental or regional tournaments in 15 years and yet still earn ten times more than Banyana Banyana. Banyana Banyana recently won the COSAFA cup for a fourth time in a row making it their seventh win overall. SAFA has not officially stated when the increase will be implemented.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

How Joel Embiid Shot His Way to NBA Super Stardom

Cameroon-born centre Joel Embiid was named Most Valuable Player after his most dominant season yet. Here’s how he defied several odds to become an inspiring figure in the basketball world.

“My life is a movie,” Joel Embiid said the morning after attaining the greatest achievement yet as a professional basketball player. On the evening of May 2nd, the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the Philadelphia 76ers centre as the winner of the Michael Jordan Most Valuable Player award. Embiid beat out fellow unicorns, the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, and there was no shortage of delight-filled quotes during his award reception press conference the following day.

Of the many instantly memorable remarks in his speech and responses to questions from the press, that quote stands out because of its consistent presence when Embiid talks about his path to professional basketball. (“My life is like a movie,” he toldSports Illustrated back in 2016, a time when his career was mostly defined by intriguing potential and debilitating injuries. )

There’s no need for embellishment when he invokes that quote; Embiid’s life has been marked by the kind of twists and turns that would easily make for a great biopic. Winning an MVP is undoubtedly a triumphant moment, but the path to this point has been anything but easy.

An Unlikely Hoop Dream

Embiid was born in Cameroon’s capital city of Yaoundé. Raised in an upper middle class home, he enjoyed certain material privileges that comes with growing up in a typically high-earning African family—like having a housekeeper. His father was a military officer and there were strict rules in the house; Embiid had to handwash his clothes and put his educational endeavours in front of any sports activities.

As a kid, Embiid played football (soccer) and volleyball. As he approached his teens, he seriously considered the possibilities of being a professional volleyball player, planning to enroll at the National Institute for Sports and Physical Education (INSEP) in France. Then Basketball happened: Joel watched the late, great Basketball icon Kobe Bryant during the 2010 NBA Finals—seeing Kobe’s dominance on the hardwood immediately ignited his affinity for hoops.

Even as he shot volleyballs at the rims in school, Embiid wasn’t quite keen on playing basketball seriously. At 16-years old, he was only beginning to learn the rudiments of the sport, and the chances of playing professionally were already very slim since he was playing catch-up, skill-wise. A few months into playing organised basketball, he reluctantly tried out for a Basketball Without Borders camp held by former NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute in Yaoundé, who caught a glimpse of his potential on a fast break play and decided to single him out as an NBA-level prospect.

In short order, the INSEP plan was scrapped and a scholarship from Montverde Academy—Mbah a Moute’s alma mater—relocated Embiid to Florida. It’s reminiscent of Hakeem Olajuwon, the Nigerian-born, ‘93 and 94 NBA MVP who didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15-years old and became the No. 1 pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, six years after getting into the sport. Olajuwon, who was also a two-time NBA champion and a perennial all-star during his career, quickly became a stylistic point of reference for Embiid as he tried to accelerate his development and there’s a similarity in their paths that’s uncanny.

The Gruelling First Steps to Hoops Stardom

At Montverde, the disparity in nascent skill-set between Embiid and his teammates quickly affected his playing time. Unlike his few months of familiarity with the game of basketball at that point, several of the young men he practised with had been dribbling and shooting since they could walk, some already being five star recruits for college scholarship programs. It also didn’t help that they had a prejudiced perception of Embiid as a young boy from Africa who barely spoke any English. No one cared that he was raised in a privileged background and previously lived in a city where French was the predominant language.

Barely playing any meaningful minutes, Embiid sparingly got a chance to exhibit the patented dream shake and footwork he learnt from watching and studying videos of Olajuwon six days a week. The next year, he transferred to The Rock School, a Christian academy also in Florida. It was there his game started to blossom, averaging 13 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game, en route to a state championship.

Amidst this second year breakout, he committed to the University of Kansas on a basketball scholarship program. Arriving at Kansas, he faced the same skill disparity issue, some of it fuelled by his own doubts at the heights he could reach. “I was trying to get redshirted,” he shared in a 2022 interview on The Draymond Green Show. “This was when I thought I would be at college for five years, ‘cause guys were dunking on me in practice.”

When he went to tell the coach of his redshirt decision, he wasn’t having any of it, telling the recruit that he could be a lottery pick as soon as the next draft. Similar to Mbah a Moute, the coach saw the boundless upside to Embiid’s talent: A 7-footer with the sort of size and effort that couldn’t be coached, with a developing offensive touch that showed how easily the game came to him. It also helped his visibility that, at Kansas, he played with Andrew Wiggins, the highly scouted Canadian player who many had anointed as the best draft prospect since Lebron James.

As Embiid developed at a great pace in college, his stock shot through the roof in the months leading up to the draft, with many draft boards even predicting that he could be the first pick. In addition to the aforementioned upside, the boards saw Embiid as a championship-level defensive anchor, a player that could deter opponents at the rim and also seamlessly switch on to perimeter and wing players if need be.

During a pre-draft workout in Cleveland, Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot with a broken navicular bone, undergoing surgery that already ruled him out of his first year as a pro. There were concerns that the injury could see him fall out of the lottery positions in the draft, but the Philadelphia 76ers took the Cameroonian centre with the third pick. Naturally, criticism followed this decision from the Sixers, especially since their sixth pick from the previous draft, centre Nerlens Noel, also lost his first year to a season-ending injury.

For the Sixers front office, led by Sam Hinkie at the time, Embiid’s upside was too tantalising to miss out on because of a one year absence. Despite frustrations that the Sixers were losing a lot of games, Hinkie repeatedly told fans to “trust the process,” hoping that successive years of lottery picks would form the formidable core of a long-term championship contending team in the future. Like the several Sixers’ draft picks in the mid-2010s, Embiid was emblematic of an era that has been dubbed “The Process,” and his scenic path to kick-starting his NBA career fit that tag.

While he was adjusting to the delay in getting into the pros, Embiid suffered a deeply personal loss. Arthur, his 13-year old younger brother, died in October 2014 after a truck crashed into a schoolyard. In addition to rehabbing his injured foot and mourning his younger brother, he had to watch from the bench as his team suffered 64 losses in its 82-game schedule. In a sliver of light, Embiid started to ramp up preparations for pro ball at the end of that season.

For a few weeks, he played in pickup games and, by all accounts, dominated. “[Embiid] literally almost ran all our bigs out of the gym,” then teammate Robert Covington told ESPN of those pickup games in May. “It was a joke how good he was,” former NBA guard Jamal Crawford said. “I saw then that the league had nothing for him.” Just when it seemed like he was ready to go, though, Embiid and the Sixers found out that his injury hadn’t been healing properly. That meant a second round of surgery that would render him ineligible to play for a second consecutive season.

The Giant Finally Arrives

Embiid played zero games two years after being selected with a lottery pick. Young NBA players have been called busts for far less, but no one could call Embiid a failed endeavour. Part of that was his outward personality, which involved a lot of social media usage. Even as he wasn’t playing, he assumed his place as the face of the Sixers franchise by being incredibly funny online, up to the point of trolling everyone—himself included.

He even adopted “The Process” as his nickname, following the unceremonious exit of the man that drafted him. That refusal to cower behind the shell of injury meant the world just had to wait and see when he eventually took the floor. On October 26, 2016, Embiid played in his first regular season game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, recording 20 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes of action as the starting centre. The debut wasn’t just promising, it felt like a dream that was starting to come true.

“I stepped on the floor, Stephen Adams was guarding me,” he recounts on The Draymond Green Show. “I scored my first bucket and then I was like, ‘Hey, this is easy.’ We ended up losing the game but that’s where the culture completely changed in Philly.” Playing on restricted minutes that kept him around 25 minutes a night, Embiid showed dominance by averaging 20.2 points, almost 8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. Through late January 2017, he played in 31 games and helped win 15 of those games, five more than the total number of Sixers wins in the previous season.

In early February 2017, it was announced that Embiid had suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee, but that it wouldn’t require surgery. After initially ruling him out of action indefinitely, the Sixers shut him down for the rest of the season. Even with his limited play, it was instantly evident that Philly had a transcendent superstar in its ranks. The franchise brass had seen enough to offer its budding star a max contract worth $146.5 million over five years, which Embiid gladly signed.

Going into the next year, the only concern about Embiid was staying healthy. Even during his long layoff, he kept growing his game. He’s repeatedly stated that he learned to improve his shooting by watching YouTube videos of “regular white people. They really put their elbow in and finish up top.” It’s indicative of an all-time basketball mind that seeks out and processes information at great speed, while clearly putting in a lot of practice.

In the third full season of his playing career, Embiid was criticised by Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley for not being more dominant on the offensive end, leaning more into tough jumpers than using his physique to barrel his way into higher percentage shots at the rim. It didn’t take long for the centre to add more muscle to his low post game, alternating between tough fadeaway jumpers and easy layups at the rim. From his official sophomore season, he quickly became central to everything the Sixers did on offense and defense, the sun around which his teams’ and opponents’ game plans revolved.

It’s no coincidence that the franchise has made the playoffs every year since the 2017-18 season, with Embiid being named an all-star every year. He’s been the league’s scoring champion in the last two regular seasons, topping 30 points per game on both occasions. He’s made an All-Defensive team three times since and also been named to an All-NBA team four times—it will be five in the next few days. These accolades speak to a superstar level of productivity that has climbed with each subsequent, a marker of how he’s evolved his game over the years.


Joel Embiid with MVP sign in the back

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Over the past five years, it’s not uncommon to hear chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!” from fans at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Centre when Embiid makes a stunning play or is simply heading to the free throw line. It’s a chant he encourages, since the Most Valuable Player honour is one he’s aspired to even before entering the league. Now that he’s won, it’s a testament to the work he’s put in to become the perfect model of the Big Man in the modern NBA.

Thanks to the evolutionary audacity of flame-throwing guards like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and James Harden, offenses in the NBA are stretched beyond the 3-point arc more than ever. That means operating in space is the premium for superstar playmakers. In previous eras, it used to be that big men exclusively operated in the post, leaning heavily on their size to create their shots. While Embiid came into the league as a bonafide stretch big that could hit shots all the way to the 3-point arc, the majority of his game happened on the low block for his first four-plus years.

Some of that came from sharing the floor with point guard Ben Simmons, who didn’t shoot the ball anywhere away from deep inside the paint. With Simmons as his running mate, the Sixers were always successful in the regular season. But the lack of spacing often limited their offense in the playoffs. Teams could conveniently double-team Embiid in the post since Simmons wasn’t a shooting threat.

As a major adjustment, Embiid largely operates in the mid-post—the area around the free throw line—to afford him more space to operate, and it’s also helped that the Sixers roster has been upgraded to include better outside shooting threats these days, including 2018 MVP James Harden. Against single coverage in the mid-post, Embiid has the option of hitting mid-range jumpers, which he’s gotten incredibly proficient at over the last two seasons. Or he can make his way to the rim. If teams choose to double, he can make the right read and pass to any of the shooters or cutters left open. Or he can make the heady play and just shoot above both defenders since he’s almost always taller than the coverage.

A year after averaging 30.6 points per game, Embiid scored 33.1 points across 66 games this past regular season, with a 55% field goal percentage and 86% from the free throw line. He also anchored a Philly defence that was ranked as the 8th best of the season, averaging 1.7 blocks and deterring way more shots at the rim with his mere presence. Simply put, he was at his most dominant on both ends of the floor, and his MVP was well-deserved.

After the valleys of his first few pro years, winning the highest individual honour in American basketball is utterly inspiring. Embiid becomes the third player of African descent to win the award, following Olajuwon and Greece-born Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s the first player to attend a Basketball without Borders camp to win the award, which is particularly encouraging for young African hoopers.

“I’ve always felt like I’m a role model, especially to my Cameroonian people and my African people,” he said at Wednesday morning’s press conference. “I feel like, looking at my story, they can look at it and go, ‘Wow, he did it.’ The probability of someone like me who started playing basketball at 15 to get the chance to be the MVP of the league is probably negative zero. But improbable doesn’t mean impossible.”

At 29-years old, Embiid is only at the peak of his powers, which means there will be more milestones to come. He’s already stated his great desire to win championships and also wants to win more MVPs and the Defensive player of the Year award. A day after his first MVP win, he wore a knee brace in game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-final matchup against the Boston Celtics, returning earlier than expected from a knee sprain, in a game the Sixers would lose. It’s the latest proof of how far he’s willing to go to win at the highest level. Joel Embiid’s basketball life is a movie and the script is still playing out.

Photo by Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images via Getty Images

5 Designers to Watch at South African Fashion Week SS23

Here are five designers to watch at South African Fashion Week SS23.

From April 20 to 23, South African Fashion Week will hit Johannesburg for its spring summer 2023 showcase. More than fulfilling the need of a fashion show, SAFW has accelerated the growth of South Africa’s fashion scene, by creating avenues to discover local talents, promoting local craftsmanship, boosting the retail economy, and triggering conversations like sustainability. SAFW is also responsible for launching the labels of prominent homegrown designers like Rich Mnisi, Thebe Magugu, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Reggi Xaba, and Sindiso Khumalo.

As one of Africa’s leading fashion event, SAFW now enters its 26th year. And over three days, it will host 11 shows and showcase 39 collections at Mall of Africa, its official venue partner. The SS23 show will see it join forces with contingents from Mozambique (Chibai, Mabenna, and Cuccla). It’s a first time collaboration, syncing Mozambique Fashion Week with South Africa’s, which will close out the show.

Going strong is SAFW’s New Talent Search, a local-run competition to discover fresh and under-the-radar talents. Returning as a headline sponsor of this segment is fashion retailer Mr Price. From Mmathoo Silika to Sifiso Kunene to Kuhle Phumzile Zondo, this year’s entrants will open proceedings at SAFW and may the best talent win. On the other hand, there are other designers we have on our radar. Not only have they been impressive in the past, we just love the mystery of not knowing what to expect.

Here are five designers to watch at South African Fashion Week SS23.

Thando Ntuli (Munkus)

After winning SAFW’s talent search competition in 2022, Thando Ntuli became a national buzz. Her womenswear brand, Munkus, was created in 2019 and has been a time capsule of '80s and '90s Soweto style influences. From its playful, whimsical silhouettes to bold and daring prints, the brand is bridging wardrobes across generations of women.

Further, a sustainability narrative has governed Ntuli’s approach to making garments. Involving technical details that imbue sentimentality, the brand prides itself on quality over quantity. In doing so, the garment’s shelf life can be extended enough to be passed down. Munkus has also adopted layering cues, allowing customers to style with other pieces. At SAFW SS23, the designer is slated to appear on day one, debuting the brands’s Isikhathi/Time SS23 collection.

Fikile Sokhulu

A 2021 WWD profile had spotlighted Fikile Sokhulu as a designer to watch. Indeed, the Durban-based designer finished as a finalist at the 2018 SAFW talent search contest. Launched in 2018, Sokhulu’s eponymous brand was among the selected few for the Fashion Bridges project in 2021. A collaboration between South Africa and Italy, the cultural exchange initiative saw Sokhulu unveil a new collection during Milan Fashion Week.

The brand’s romantic aesthetic (ruffles, frills, pleats, ruching) and feminine tailoring tap into soft sensibilities. When the brand started out, it had heavily featured white, which can still be found in recent collections.

Sipho Mbuto

Durban-based Sipho Mbuto created his self-named, androgynous brand in 2018. A finalist at the 2021 SAFW New Talent Search, Mbutho also participated in the Fashion Bridges project. And this is only a few of the recognitions he has. The brand’s aesthetic tows the line between understated and dramatic, mix matching and clean monochromatic lines.

In Mbuto’s world, he has been sustaining a dialogue around the gender question of clothes, prioritizing self-expression, functionality, movement, and durability. At SAFW 2021, he showcased a collection made out of upcycled denim, second hand jeans sourced from street markets and then deconstructed. At the core of the brand are zero-waste measures informing its production method.

Ntando Ngwenya (Ntando XV)

Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Ntando Ngwenya isn’t a new name in South African fashion. A self-taught designer, he showcased his debut capsule collection in 2015 at the Johannesburg Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. In 2017, he became the winner of David Tlale’s The Intern, a South African reality show with contestants competing to be Tlale’s next assistant designer.

In the years that have followed, Ngwenye has found a niche in menswear with Ntando XV, created in 2015. The experimental label has been inclusive nonetheless, combining wardrobe essentials with postmodern techniques. A visual signature is the contrasting white piping that wreathe around garments. In the SS23 SAFW designer lineup, Ngwenya showcases on the last day, and we look forward to it.

Gugu Peteni (Gugu by Gugu)

A finalist in the 2020 and 2022 SAFW’s Scouting Menswear competition, Gugu Peteni established Gugu by Gugu in 2019 as a streetwear label. Her experience designing for Mohair South Africa for three years helped the designer to navigate Gugu by Gugu in the streetwear market. It also explains her love for mohair, and how the material has crept into her own label.
From colorful knits, denim, velvet dungarees, mohair coats, jumpers to bomber jackets, embossed logos and hand-painted essentials, Peteni has created a wide range of streetwear pieces. For SAFW’s AW22 showcase, she collaborated with South African artist Moagi Letseki to render paintwork on some offerings. It was also a collection that used sustainable techniques and materials used in Peteni’s home. Gugu by Gugu will showcase on April 22, the last day of SAFW.

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