THE first black woman to be capped for Scotland’s international rugby side has vowed to help other people of colour join the sport.
In an interview with Black Ballad, Panashe Muzambe said “it would be so useless” if, in five years’ time, she remains the only black player to be capped for Scotland’s women’s team.
Ms Muzambe, who moved to Scotland from Zimbabwe when she was 12 years old, won her first cap in 2019 against England, but said she initially had no idea she was the first black player to represent her country.
Since then, she has played for Scotland at five more international women’s rugby matches.
“I’ve realised that this whole process of me playing rugby is way bigger than who I am,” Ms Muzambe told Black Ballad, “it’s way bigger than ‘she got her first cap against England becoming the first black player’. It’s ‘what does Panashe do for other players after her?’
“It would be so useless for me to be the first and five years down the line, ten years down the line, it’s still just me who has made it this far.”
The 82kg openside flanker, who celebrated her 25th birthday in November this year, said she felt she has a responsibility “to be as visible as I can be,” and to “speak [up] on things that matter to me.”
Ms Muzambe insisted she is “still learning” but said she would be “so honoured” to pass on what she knows to “one single person”.
“That’s my job done. I think seeing it that way motivated me to think of ways I can try and influence other young people who have never seen other young people of colour to play at this level.”
After starting out as an amateur basketball player in school, Ms Muzambe only took up rugby during her final year at Edinburgh Napier University.
She told Black Ballad that she “absolutely fell in love” with rugby after attending a try-out session on a whim, adding “the reason why I joined rugby was I wanted to enjoy a different kind of sport.”
When Ms Muzambe was invited to attend a national development squad training camp, she said: “I got an email and I was almost tearing up because this was massive.”
Recalling the moment she was called up to play for Scotland, she said: “I thought I was coming in as a travelling reserve.
“I had to go and compose myself, because the emotions were just too much.”
Ms Muzambe described the moment she came off the bench to earn her first cap for Scotland as “special” and a day that “would go down in history.”
The professional sports coach now plays regularly for Watsonians women’s rugby in addition to her international duties.
“I have made choices that have put me in a position where I can’t be with my friends,” she said, “I’ve made choices where I can’t see my family, I’ve made choices where I have to do training sessions.
“But I’ve made those choices because I understand that the people around me support those choices.”
Ms Muzambe sits on the SportScotland Young People’s Sport Panel, a body designed to raise the profile of rugby among young people.