Now synonymous with sports, anchor and radio jock Mpho Maboi (38) got her first radio break as a sometimes traffic reader for DJ Fresh’s morning show on YFM. Soon she was a full-time member of the show.
“In 2009, when I joined SuperSport, that’s when I moved fully toward sport. So, I don’t know why, but nobody has considered me part of entertainment ever since,” says Maboi.
Her lesson from radio is that “people learn to love you for who you are, so it helps to be genuine.
If you try to be disingenuous people know and they are like, ‘aah… this is not the Mpho that we know.’ You have to be true to who you are, because you never know who’s listening.”
Even as a radio DJ, Maboi gravitated towards sports. “Whenever there was a big game on the weekend, I’d find myself talking about it,” she says. “And then Bridget Masinga [a radio-show host herself], told me that SuperSport was looking for female presenters. I went through, did a screen test and they liked me, and I started doing the NFD [National First Division] show when it started.
“So we’d come in on a Friday and preview the games that were happening, review the midweek games and sometimes have in-studio interviews,” says Maboi, explaining the format. “In the beginning, they started off pre-recording the show, but soon it became a live show. Eventually, I started anchoring PSL [Premier Soccer League] games, then in 2013, SABC roped me in to do PSL with them.”
Asked how far back she goes with sports, Maboi says she grew up a tomboy and was willing to be a sporting pioneer at school when she had her way.
“I was an athlete at school, trying to get a women’s soccer team together when we were in high school,” she says. “But unfortunately [it didn’t happen] because we were in a predominantly white school and the principal just didn’t feel like girls should be playing soccer… she was not about that vibe.
“But I think on some level I am grateful, because had I pursued that I would have ended up more of a soccer player than being a broadcaster. Also, my dad is a huge soccer fan and he’s a huge boxing fan. We grew up with soccer being a part of life, really.”
When not on the sportsfield, Maboi spends time cooking and painting, both of which she finds therapeutic. “I’m not good enough to be out there with the painting, but I enjoy kids and talking to women. I’m a closet feminist, so I enjoy empowering young girls.”
Her weekdays, especially, can be gruelling. “I get up at 3.30am to be ready for the breakfast show on Metro FM. I go to bed around 7.30pm. I struggle with late-night events. If I do go out, around 9pm, my body is shutting down; it becomes a problem.”
Always passionate about growing the number of women in sports-related fields, Maboi has an annual mentorship programme in which young women spend time asking top women achievers questions.
She hopes to take it around the country soon, because of a high demand for it. “The second one is in September,” she says. “Whenever I do it people are like, ‘so when is it coming to Durban, when is it coming to Cape Town?’ So it doesn’t mean that only women in Jo’burg want to get into sport.”
Asked where she gets her effortless confidence from, Maboi says it is the inadvertent perk of her job. “It’s from having to stand in front of people who think they know it all, because there is no one who knows their sports more than a fan!”