Two teens head to Norway for football

2011-05-02 00:00

MOST pupils in their neighbourhood might not even have heard of Norway, but Fezile Ngcobo (14) and Cebo Nzimande (13) are jetting there next week to participate in international football matches against boys in their age division from Scandinavian countries. They will also be trained by top European coaches.

The teens have not travelled much further than their neighbourhood of KwaPata, let alone travelled on an aeroplane before, but they were the envy of fellow pupils at Nobanda Primary School and teachers alike, who gave them a happy send-off party on Friday.

This was possible all because of a dedicated and insightful teacher, who went beyond the call of duty. Teacher and sport organiser Lindiwe Mkhize said she noticed the raw talent of her pupils. Realising that it would take more than her coaching abilities to nurture the skill she had witnessed, she spoke to her husband to help her enlist the assistance of Thabo Dladla, a local boy and nationally acclaimed soccer coach.

Dladla did this through the Izichwe Youth Football Programme, initiated about three years ago. The idea was to empower previously disadvantaged children with academic and life skills, using football as a vehicle.

“It is a follow-up programme from a programme I ran in the 1990s. Through that programme we were able to produce over 25 players who played for various national teams in the country from under 12s right to the senior national team,” Dladla told The Witness.

Dladla, who has taught at Safa’s School of Excellence,designed the programme followed by his protégés.The boys even have a mathematics club where they are coached by students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, from similar backgrounds as they, since a failure in any subject at school could risk these boys being kicked out of the team. This no-nonsense attitude was also expected out of the parents of the 20 boys going to Norway, who were expected to raise the R240 000 for the trip themselves.

“It was important for me to have the parents talk the same language because I can’t teach one thing and they teach another. We have kids here whose parents are hawkers and support their families through selling vegetables and fruit on the streets and I have to tell you there is nothing more fulfilling than having that person be able to contribute R4 000 for the trip. For me that is testament of a human spirit and what we are capable of,” Dladla said.

His next goal is to see a Pietermaritzburg star play in a Champions League final, something he said should be a piece of cake.

Thabo Dladla, football coach

It was important for me to have the parents talk the same language …

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