The South African Soccer Legends have formed a team of promising young football players in Soweto. They practise and compete at the University of Johannesburg’s facilities.
FROM playing soccer on bumpy and dusty streets, to playing on a well-manicured football pitch is a dream come true for some young footballers from Soweto.
Zwane gives his players pep talkMandla Zwane gives his players a pep talkThe 26 high school boys in grades 8 to 12 now play on a pristine pitch at the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus, thanks to the intervention of South African Soccer Legends (Sasl).
Sasl, a concept put together by retired soccer stars, is a football organisation that seeks to develop and expose young, talented footballers to opportunity. “The idea is to create opportunities for young footballers to nurture their talents in a conducive and safe environment,” says the team’s head coach, Mandla Zwane.
The organisation is more than just a club that trains young footballers, however; it is a school that teaches discipline, respect and other life skills that will contribute significantly in growing a crop of responsible young footballers, according to Zwane.
“Football is known for uniting the community, but it can also be used to instil moral values,” he adds.
The organisation has partnered with the University of Johannesburg, which was instrumental in establishing the team. “They granted us access to their sports fields free of charge.”
The team uses the university’s sports facilities for their training sessions and for playing competitive matches. But the university‘s contribution to the development of the team goes beyond the field of play, adds Zwane.
“From time to time they invite our boys to be part of their career exhibitions. Football is a short career; it is important to prepare youngsters for life after football. Many of us were frustrated after retiring from professional football as we did not have anything to fall back on.”
A practise session at UJ groundsA practise session at UJ groundsZwane, who played for big name teams like Orlando Pirates and Portugal’s FC Porto, has big dreams for his team. He says the vision is to build a football club that will produce some of the country‘s best players. “When selecting the squad we conducted trials at local schools and only the best were selected.”
Among the boys who have established themselves as hardworking players, is 21-year-old Mpho Khabelo from Mapetla High School.
Khabelo hopes to play for a professional club in the near future. “This is a stepping stone to better things to come. We are lucky to have a coach like Bra Mandla, because he has experience, and he advises us on a lot of things besides soccer.”
Seventeen-year-old David Tholo from Thabatjabula High School is also cutting a name for himself. “Being a part of this team is a blessing. Playing football keeps us away from loitering in the streets and getting involved in negative things,” he says.
Tholo, who has been noted as a hard worker by the coach, says that being part of the team has transformed him into a responsible person.
Elaborating on what the team stands for, Brian Tlale, one of the founding members of the Sasl, says the team is the start of greater things to come.” As part of our project we have established a coaching school, where aspiring coaches will be taught the South Africa way of playing football.
“It is high time to take South African football to another level,” he adds.
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