A PRIMARY School from KwaZulu-Natal rural village of Hammarsdale, Mophela Primary might have not performed well in the 2017 Danone Nations Cup World Final soccer tournament in New York last month, but they made their mark.
The ambitious South African’s finished 27th out of the 32 teams competing.
And for Njabulo Ndlovu (and Elephant in isiZulu) and teammates was an experience one cannot forget as long as they live.
“I’d like to return to the USA one day and I would like to play soccer in Europe,” Njabulo said.
“The USA changed my way of thinking. I’m from a very rural area, but now I know I can go out and improve myself and come back and improve the village I live in. I know I’ll need to work hard and do well at school to do that,” says Njabulo, who moved into the Lily of the Valley children’s home two years ago after living, along with 17 others, in a single-room dwelling, all surviving on his grandmother’s social welfare pension.
In his admission, he says jetlag and adjusting to a different time zone affected the team badly. “In the first days we had no energy, so we made a slow start.”
Wearing No8 jersey, Njabulo is credited for having scored two goals at the tournament that was won by Mexico.
The 12 year-old has been identified by the scouts from AmaZulu FC and can’t wait for next year when he will be with them on a more permanent basis.
He is working on his English, hoping they will send him to Glenwood Boys’ High next year.
One day he would like to become a teacher. “I want to come back to the village and make a major impact in changing the environment there to improve the entire village,” he said.
For Njabulo the highlights of going to the world finals were playing on great surfaces and meeting players from other countries. With his stylish play, and ability to speak English, he was a popular tourist.
The best team to watch, according to Njabulo, was Spain.
“I loved the way they would pass the ball to each other and how well they communicated on the field,” he said. But then what else can you expect from Atletico Madrid’s development team”? he asked shyly.