17 November 2022 – They say dreams do come true, but only if you believe!
That’s the story of Lwazi Ngcungama.
The 29-year-old was born in the village of Gcilima in KwaZulu Natal.
A year ago no one knew about him.
He shot to prominence when he designed a replica of the 1996 Bafana Bafana jersey for the inaugural Legends Golf Day held earlier this year in Johannesburg – an exercise that brought back memories of yesteryear to many fans.
Now his star is shining even brighter and he is the toast of the country after his artwork captured the hearts of many with his shirt design for the South African senior national teams – the jerseys will be used in 2023/2024 by both Banyana Banyana and Bafana Bafana.
The announcement was made on Wednesday (16 November 2022) by Le Coq Sportif, the technical sponsors of the South African Football Association (SAFA), after running a competition through social media.
“The people have decided. Massive congratulations to Lwazi Ngcungama on these concepts that clinched 1st place in our ‘design campaign.’ We cannot wait to start working with Lwazi on delivering the final jersey for the 2023/24 season. FreewayartsD will be working closely with SAFA and Le Coq Sportif to deliver a kit that is FIFA-approved and World Cup-ready,” said Le Coq Sportif in a tweet.
He is still in disbelief.
“You know when all this started, I didn’t know what to expect, and almost didn’t enter the competition because my laptop was broken at the time, and so much was not going well in my life – so I had to borrow one so I could start with my design,” said a beaming Ngcungama.
From the many entries Le Coq Sportif received, he was shortlisted among the top five, and eventually made the top three.
“I was very excited to make the top three – but again here I had lost hope when I heard nothing as it took forever to announce the leading three. Despite that, I kept encouraging everyone to continue to vote,” added Ngcungama.
“The whole week waiting for the name of the winner kept us in suspense – with family asking what was happening but I had no answers. Finally the call came, but I missed it – so when I returned the call they told me the good news. I could not believe it and was calm. It was only after I put the phone down that I started to digest what I had just heard. This is more than a dream come true – who would have thought that a rural boy like myself could be in such a position? I just can’t wait to see the day the art comes to life and see the national players donning the jersey designed by myself – I am still trying to wake up from this dream, trying to make sense of it all. This is years and years of hard is finally paying off.”
After he had gathered himself, the first person to call was his mother.
“My mother has been through a lot to see me get to where I am, so I called her and told her the good news – but did not go into details as she was at work, with the agreement that I was going to give her the full story when she had knocked off,” said Ngcungama.
“I can tell you now that winning this competition was a clear example that your obsession can take you far if you are focussed.”
He says the three designs he presented in the competition represent three stories and three generations.
The white was inspired by the Bafana Bafana Class of 96 when South Africa won the Africa Cup of Nations on home soil under coach Clive Barker – a jersey also made famous by the late former state President Nelson Mandela who handed over the trophy to the then captain Neil Tovey.
The opening goal of the 2010 FIFA World Cup scored by Simphiwe Tshabalala against Mexico at the FNB Stadium was in Lwazi’s mind when he designed the gold/yellow jersey – which is the colour Bafana Bafana wore on the day.
Banyana Banyana winning the CAF Women’s Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year (Sunday, 23 July 2022) prompted the green jersey with gold trimmings representing the title Desiree Ellis’ charges won in Morocco.
“I want to convey my greatest gratitude to Le Coq Sportif and SAFA for giving people like us such an opportunity. My appreciation also goes to all the South Africans who believed in my project and voted. Without your votes I would not be standing here. Thank you very much South Africa.
“This competition has shown that the future looks bright as this country has loads of talent – all it needs is to be exposed and that is what Le Coq Sportif and SAFA did. I hope this will open doors, not just for me but for all who took part. I foresee a brighter future for everyone who participated.”
SAFA was full of praise.
“As the South African Football Association we are pleased with the outcome and would like to thank our technical sponsor Le Coq Sportif for the transparent way they ran this campaign and we are also glad that the people have spoken. What remains now is to bring the design to life and see our teams inside these beautiful designs,” said SAFA CEO Tebogo Motlanthe.
“We would also like to thank all designers that took part as well as the South Africans who participated through voting – with that in mind, we can safely it’s the jersey of the people and can’t wait to see the final product.”