By Thembelani Mkhize
Mpophomeni has a rich history when it comes to producing top-class football players. Our presence in top level football can be traced back to the 1960s with class players such as the late Wilfred Mgababa, who eventually played for Kaizer Chiefs.
Coaches like Lucky Mbazo Zuma have mentored young boys for more than 30 years, and players such as Khulekani Madondo, who played in the Premier Soccer League, and Nkosinathi Sibisi, who recently made it to the national team, were also local talent at some point.
Pool of talent
With a burgeoning talent pool, you’d think the local municipality would chip in to help groom future soccer stars but the conditions of the notorious sports ground tell another story. Dilapidated and literally falling apart, it is a sad sight.
One man, however, is putting his passion, time and money where his mouth is, to uplift youngsters and the soccer team he believes in. Fortunately, there are still people out there with a hands-on approach when it comes to community development through sports.
Dlabantu FC, from Mpophomeni Township, experienced a great tragedy when they lost a 13-year-old teammate who was killed in an alleged hit-and-run on the Boston Rod when they were on their way back from training. They had recently acquired a sponsor from Mafakatini sports philanthropist Zamani Mnguni.
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Mnguni took it upon himself to buy the team balls and cones for training before he surprised them with a full kit, complete with a branded warm-up kit for every player, from under 12 to 1st team… this staunch supporter also assists with transport arrangements and makes sure they have food and refreshments. He also donated his time and effort to assist with the funeral of the teenager after the devastating accident.
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The club has both male and female players, ranging from the ages of 12-28. They participate in the SAB league and have a big encounter with local rivals Bulwer lined up. Mnguni has a goal and that’s to see his team make it into the Motsepe league (third tier in SA football) in the next three years and the PSL in the next five. Lofty targets, but he is quite serious and believes in the Dlabantu players.
“I’m confident in my team,” said Mnguni. “I know with the right support and assistance they can not only win the SAB league but move on to become PSL stars” he added.
Mnguni has a deep-seated love for not only soccer but sports in general. He hopes to grow his team and start a volleyball division in the near future.
Lihle Thabede, one of the players, could not contain his excitement as he was doing the printing work for the new kit. “This is exactly what the team needed,” he said. “Last year we had nothing, but now we have everything that makes a team a team. Coach has been a blessing to us and we appreciate everything he does,” he added.
Thabede owns Brandit Signs, a branding company he started five years ago. He even created a custom font for the numbers on the kit to give his team a unique look.
If you have the resources and are passionate about football and supporting the youth, you can get in touch with coach Mnguni to help with sponsorship: 072 541 5331.