THE players in the Daniye Primary School under-12 football team are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives so far, one that will culminate in them running out onto the hallowed turf of London’s Wembley Stadium in September.
The Bushbuckridge school, Mpumalanga won the national final of the Danone Nations Cup and earned the right to represent the country at the world finals in London as a result.
Midfielders, Smangaliso Khoza and Njomo Mabunda, believe this trip is a dream come true. Smangaliso Khoza comes from a poor background and is one of six children, raised by their grandmother while their parents are away doing piece work to survive. His grandmother is his biggest supporter.
“She gives me money to go watch matches when my parents can’t, and she is always
there for me and encourages me to be better at what I do,” he said.
One reason Smangaliso is excited about going to London is to play on the field his favourite club, Manchester United, has triumphed many a time.
“I admire the Manchester United players who are disciplined and I know that they earn a lot of money. I will always have football in my heart, but my dream is actually to be a mechanical engineer and to one day be in a position to buy a house in Durban for my family.” Smangaliso also have a favourite local player and club: Simphiwe Tshabalala from Player his favourite player.
In contrast Njomo Mabunda comes from a more affluent family. His father is a teacher at the school, and the team’s manager and his mother is a mathematics teacher at a neighbouring school.
Mabunda has a love for computers and when he is not playing soccer he is generally at the keyboard. “I love numbers,” he says, “and I enjoy helping may father who is not very good with his computer.”
Mabunda is learning all he can about London ahead of the trip there. “Everyone at home knows that I have been to Reiger Park (for the Danone Nations Cup nationals finals), and soon they will also know that I have been to London,” he said.
Both players give a lot of the credit for the team’s success to coach, Thabo Bila. “He is a wonderful coach. He is kind and loves people and he always congratulates us when we win our matches,” said Smangaliso. “I loved playing in the Danone Nations Cup because we played so many matches in one day and won most of them,” Njomo said. “If it wasn’t for it, I wouldn’t know what it is like to be travelling on an airplane.”