Keeping youngsters off the streets through football

Nhlanhla Ngubo with the trophy that his team recently won.

Nineteen-year-old Nhlanhla Ngubo believes that sport is an essential tool to fight crime and drug abuse in his community of Umlazi.

In a country like South Africa, which is ravaged by crime and drug abuse among its youth, Ngubo says forming a football club was his way of fighting these social ills.

“The sole purpose of forming my own football team and coaching it myself was to keep the youngsters in my community away from alcohol, drugs, and criminal activities. We are duty-bound as citizens to protect the future of our country, which is the youth,” he said.

His club, Apollo United, which was formed early this year, has outdone itself, winning several local tournaments. It currently has more than 30 players, aged between 10 and 16.  He hopes to achieve more success with his team and attract more players. One of his goals is to see his players becoming professional football stars.

The dedicated coach admits though that becoming a football coach was never part of his dreams. “I have always loved football, but being a coach or even forming my own club, is definitely not something I always wanted to do. I have now fallen in love with it and I would like to make it a long-term career,” he insists.

Ngubo singles out former Bafana Bafana coach, Jomo Sono, whom he refers to as ‘Mjomane’, as his biggest inspiration.

“A person like Mjomane inspires me a lot. Not only did he play football at the highest level, locally and internationally, but he formed his own team and coaches it himself, just like me. If there is one person in the world that I would love to work with or for one day, it is him,” he claims.

Still a high school student himself, who is currently in grade 11, the young coach acknowledges that being in charge of a football club comes with lots of responsibilities and challenges.

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“What I do is not easy and it’s not for everyone. I have to sacrifice a lot of my time. Juggling between my schoolwork and coaching duties is difficult. I am responsible for the safety of my players when play in far off places. Our biggest challenge as a team though is having no sponsors. We really struggle financially and we currently have one team jersey,” he points out.

With all the aforementioned responsibilities and challenges, the soft-spoken coach says he is not going to stop doing what he is doing because he simply loves his job. Ngubo loves seeing the joy his work brings to his players. He hopes to inspire other people to think of things they can do to keep youngsters off the streets.

“I hope what I do here will inspire other people, not just to become football coaches, but to do things for their communities that will bring about positivity.  It starts with each one of us to make our townships, our cities, our provinces and our country a better and safe place. It is in our hands,” he concluded.

Ndumiso Dlulisa

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