It’s exciting times for the under-12 soccer team from Mophela Primary. It is not long to go now before they board the plane for New York City to represent South Africa at the Danone Nations Cup world soccer finals.
The Hammarsdale school from KwaZulu-Natal won the Danone Nations Cup South African title earlier in the month and went straight into school holidays. They are back now and are hard at work as they prepare for the opportunity of a lifetime.
The school is based in a rural area outside Pinetown and the only field available to them is an open area a 3km walk away, which the kids walk every day to attend training.
The team’s coach Siyabonga Ndimande says that they are all looking forward to the experience of watching other countries play, how they train and their general approach to the game.
“We have an exceptionally talented group of players,” he said. “Six of them have been signed up by the Amazulu youth academy and one was recognized by Mamelodi Sundowns at the nationals. That’s a great opportunity for the kids, and it has motivated them even further.”
Among those who will be playing at Amazulu next season are Lwazi “Junior” Magwanyana, and Njabulo Ndlovu.
Both are experienced in the Danone Cup – this was their third year in the competition – and Ndimande will be relying on them in New York.
Magwanyana is a central defender who has been playing soccer since grade 1. In Grade 5 he joined the ST Bay Football Club, along with Ndlovu, so they have been getting extra coaching there.
“I made a lot of friends during the national finals, especially the players from the Western Cape,” said Magwanyana. “It’s going to be exciting going to New York to meet the other players from other countries, seeing the tall building there that we don’t have in South Africa and tasting the different food that they will have in New York,” he said.
Njabulo Ndlovu is a striker. He started playing soccer in the streets with his friends at 5 and wants to become a professional soccer player. “I also have dreams of becoming a social worker so that I can help children that have home problems and make sure that they get proper education,” he said
His parents are unable to take care of him so he lives in a children’s home, the Lily of the Valley, at the moment. Going to Amazulu will be a great opportunity for him. He is hoping to get into a school like Glenwood Boys’ High where he can stay in the school hostel. “This will really give me a good grounding for my future in both my education and my soccer. And to be able to say that I played in the Danone Nations Cup world finals in the USA is the ultimate achievement.”
Before then, however, there’s plenty of hard work to be done in preparation for the trip. Passports have been applied for, Visa’s must be approved. Training has started and the parents of the players are all on board.
The world finals will take place in New York from 22 – 24 September.