James Dodson x Busani Xaba

Going from playing rugby in Zimbabwe to squash, on a bet that changed his life.
December 16, 2023
A journey beyond borders.

Busani's story begins in the vibrant landscapes of Zimbabwe, a land where squash was accessible but not a mainstream sport. It was in this setting that a young, athletic Busani first encountered squash - not as a chosen path but as a challenge from a peer who doubted the versatility of rugby players in other sports.

This challenge, though seemingly trivial, ignited a spark in Busani, leading him to practice squash in solitude, laying the foundations of a journey that would later take him across continents.

In high school, Busani's squash talents blossomed under the guidance of a teacher, Jonathan Makola, who saw potential in his raw skills. Encouraged to focus on squash, Busani began to play in leagues, often as the only person of color, challenging and reshaping perceptions with each game. His school, a melting pot of various socio-economic backgrounds, became the crucible where his love for squash and its potential to bridge cultural divides took root.

Busani's prowess on the squash court soon opened doors to international play, including a junior all-Africa competition.

Here, he stood shoulder to shoulder with athletes from across the continent, each game a lesson in diversity and understanding, highlighting squash's ability to transcend boundaries and unite people from different walks of life.

For Busani, squash was more than just a sport; it was a confidence builder, an escape from potential paths less constructive, and a source of personal growth. It taught him lessons in perseverance, discipline, and resilience, shaping him into the person he is today.

As his skills improved, he started playing in adult leagues, gaining access to clubs that were predominantly white. In these spaces, he watched and learned from others, often playing in the remaining minutes of lit courts or continuing in the dark, showing his dedication and resourcefulness. This period of his life was crucial, as it exposed him to different lifestyles and helped him understand and navigate diverse social dynamics.

At 14, Busani began representing his state, and by 15, he was chosen for the junior all-Africa competition, competing against players from Botswana, Zambia, Egypt, and South Africa.

These experiences broadened his worldview, instilling a sense of global citizenship.

Busani’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of squash. From the courts of Zimbabwe to international arenas, his story is one of breaking barriers, building bridges, and the relentless pursuit of personal growth. It exemplifies how sports can serve as a powerful vehicle for empowerment and global exploration, especially for people of color.

Through Busani's eyes, squash is seen not just as a game, but as a passport to the world, offering opportunities for cultural exchange, personal development, and breaking down societal barriers. His story is an invitation to young people of color to step out of their comfort zones, to see the world through the lens of squash, and to embrace the myriad opportunities it presents for growth, discovery, and the bridging of worlds.