Soccer league brings the community together

Organiser of the Shabalala Soccer League, Willy Nyambi, believes the sport helps keep community members out of trouble.

A group of Shabala residents from the ages of 16 to 32 not only participate in matches every weekend, but practice three times a week and attend special training camps before crucial matches.

Willy Nyambi, the founder of the Shabalala Soccer League, says he started it in 2009 to help keep young people in the settlement out of trouble but it has since grown into an event that about 65 per cent of the community attend.

Besides organising the popular weekly tournament, he also manages and coaches one of the teams, the Shabalala Soweto Stars.

The league currently consists of eight teams, who pay an entry fee of R625 per team per tournament to help cover the prize money and fees for professional referees. Nyambi says the prize money is a big financial boost as his team uses it to buy essential items such like school bags and food. The downside of this fee is that some of the teams have to occasionally drop out as they cannot always afford the fee.

Matches are played on Saturdays for almost the entire day, with the finals on Sundays, on one of the three soccer fields in Shabalala.

“There really are some talented people coming from Shabalala,” Nyambi said, mentioning that some locals are currently playing for professional teams or refereeing for well-known leagues.

“I started this tournament because a lot of talented guys were just sitting at home. I wanted to try and get the young people away from drugs and stealing, giving them the opportunity to develop their talents and a chance to travel.”

He said the tournaments were originally only held during school terms, but there was such a high demand from the community to continue throughout the holidays that it is now a year-round event.

Young and old bring their cooler boxes, play music from their car boots and support the teams ever week. Nyambi says the madalas have their favourite teams and even go sit next to them and give advice, which he really appreciates and enjoys to see.

Despite the success of the league, Nyambi says they are in need of the community’s help as they do not have enough funds to buy some of the essential items needed to develop the sport.

They are currently renting jerseys, which is a big expenditure, and seek to acquire their own team gear. Soccer balls are also sorely needed as the only ones they can afford wear out quickly.

Nyambi is willing to expand the league if additional teams would like to join, but says that he needs advice on how to go about it.

Anyone who would like to give Nyambi a hand, some advice or donate some equipment can contact him on 072-213-1674.

Retha Nel

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