Having played various sports as a child and teenager, as well as watching my nine-year old explore different sports, including rugby and football, I sincerely believe that participating in sports can have immense benefits for a child growing up. At my son’s football sessions, the coaches are fair but don’t allow for messing around. They expect discipline, the desire to work hard, the understanding that it is about team work and having fun. I have seen introverted and/or shy children, including my boy, come into their own on the training field and, in talking to other parents, we see it carry over into other aspects of our children’s lives.

The Vodacom NXT LVL programme, which I posted about recently, has impacted on those who were selected to participate in more ways than just the potential of becoming professional footballers. For sixteen year old Diteboho Mothabeng from Bloemfontein, it has helped his confidence and helped him stand on his own two feet, which will hold him in good stead as he embarks on the next chapter of his life.

A hundred players were chosen from over a thousand submissions, to attend the Vodacom NXT LVL Boot Camp, following a ‘call to action’ where young players had videos of them doing drills (according to the position they play) uploaded to the programme’s site. At the High Performance Centre, the young boys and girls ‘underwent scientific tests, received intense training and good coaching” following which they were cut down to thirty-two players.

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The Final 16

These thirty-two players were divided into two sixteen player teams coached by SA footballing legends Mark Fish, Portia Modise, Edward Motale and Deshi Bhaktawer (goalkeeping coach) on the one side and Lucas Radebe, Simphiwe Dludlu, Cyril Nzama and Andre Arendse (goalkeeping coach) on the other. Mark Fish’s team, with Mothabeng as goalkeeper, won the exhibition match played early October at Tuks Stadium by two goals to one.

The Vodacom NXT LVL prize? A full bursary up to matric at TuksSport High School ensuring that, as they pursue their dreams of building and living the lives of professional footballers, they also get a solid academic education preparing them for being able to manage their lives responsibly moving forward. The bursary covers boarding, books, uniform, tuition and at least three trips home each year.

Team Lucas Radebe players each received “R50,000 paid toward their education through a fund administered by the Vodacom Foundation.”

Too many footballers lives literally end when their careers end because they haven’t had the necessary guidance in terms of preparing financially. I once interviewed Lucas Radebe who pointed out that, at a time when most of us are truly finding our feet in our chosen careers, footballers are often having to figure out life after their first career. Hopefully initiatives like Vodacom NXT LVL can better equip players for life.

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