South African Soccer NGO in the Spotlight

By | October 24th, 2017 | No Comments


Kabelo “KB” Mashinini, Thabiso “Boyzzz” Khumalo and Thabang “Cosmos” Matsoko are the heart and soul of the Umhlaba Vision Foundation (UVF) in South Africa. In a recent piece published in the Huffington Post, the three men discuss their nonprofit organization that since 2007 has provided local boys with overseas educational experiences through soccer.

“Hailing from the Meadowlands section of Soweto, Mashinini, Khumalo and Matsoko have impacted their community and country significantly over the last decade,” the article states.  “What we’re doing,” says Michigan-based Khumalo, “is bringing talented student-athletes here to go to school and then when they do good in soccer and in school, they get two opportunities.”

“Because most of these kids are like me, where I only depended on soccer, and if soccer didn’t work, I hadn’t considered what else I’d do,” Khumalo said, “I decided to create the foundation to help the kids of South Africa and make my contribution to society using something I love and am passionate about.”

UVF has important Michigan connections through Khumalo and sponsors such as Madonna University Athletics, AFC Ann Arbor, Concordia Ann Arbor Athletics, Northville Rush, and Michigan ODP.

Read the full article here.


Boyzzz Khumalo: From Soweto to Michigan, part 2

By | July 25th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Part 2 of my interview with Boyzzz Khumalo (part 1 is here) opens with a description of the harrowing injury that prematurely ended his Major League Soccer career.

Boyzzz reflects on the inherent fragility of professional sports, the importance of higher education for life after soccer, and his extensive youth coaching experiences in both Soweto and in Michigan.

Boyzzz’s deeply personal commitment to community upliftment comes through in a detailed discussion of the challenges and hopes for the Umhlaba Vision Foundation. Anyone interested in getting involved or learning more about Umhlaba can send email to boyzzzkhumalo80 AT gmail.

Boyzzz Khumalo: From Soweto to Michigan

By | July 24th, 2014 | No Comments

Thabiso “Boyzzz” Khumalo grew up in Soweto, South Africa, around the corner from the homes of two Nobel Peace laureates: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Like so many boys in the land of apartheid, he spent every moment of free time playing soccer and dreaming of becoming a professional player overseas. Unlike most of them, however, Boyzzz fulfilled his dream

On July 22, I sat down with Boyzzz for an interview on the campus of Michigan State University. We’d been hoping to do an interview ever since we met in November 2013 when he visited my “Sport in African History” seminar for a screening and discussion of Invictus.

This week was an especially opportune time to chat about Boyzzz’s sporting life because on Sunday, July 27, Lansing United, his current team, travels east to New Jersey to play a National Premier Soccer League semifinal against New York Red Bull Under-23.

How does a young man from Soweto end up playing in Michigan? In part 1 of our interview, Boyzzz shares memories of anarchic pickup games in Soweto; his first experience in the U.S. during a youth tournament that would change his life; and then scoring his first MLS goal for DC United.

Boyzzz also discusses the work of the Umhlaba Vision Foundation–a nonprofit organization he founded in 2007 with two South African friends. The goal of Umhlaba (meaning “world” in the Zulu language) is to change the lives of young Sowetans by creating a positive development environment through sport and education and bringing student-athletes to the United States. For more information about the foundation please email Boyzzz (boyzzzkhumalo80 AT gmail).

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for part 2 of the interview!

The Mighty Bucs Reign Supreme

By | May 25th, 2011 | 3 Comments

By Mohlomi Maubane in Soweto, South Africa

A few days before the 2010 World Cup kicked off in South Africa, the New York Times Magazine published an insightful piece on football development focused on Ajax Amsterdam’s famous youth academy. “How a Soccer Star is Made” by Michael Sokolove is a must read for the myopic beings who masquerade as the game’s sole custodians in South Africa and who have turned fiddling while Rome burns into an art. I was reminded of the NYT article during this past weekend’s dramatic finish of the 2010-2011 PSL season.

In the story, Sokolove recounts his encounter with David Endt, manager of the Ajax first team and a former Ajax player. Endt also serves as the team’s unofficial conscience and historian. His office is a mini-museum and on his desk was a pair of scissors, once allegedly used by an Ajax player to attack a teammate in a dressing room squabble a few decades back.

If Orlando Pirates — the Soweto giants crowned PSL champions on Saturday — had a museum, the orange shirt of one of Ajax’s most decorated products would find a place in it. For months, Pirates’ coach Ruud Krol’s bright shirt has been the source of jokes among many soccer scribes in South Africa. However, for Krol, who played 339 games for Ajax and 83 times for The Netherlands (including two World Cup finals), the orange shirt was no laughing matter. Not only is orange his national colour, but it was also a good luck omen. And you sure need a dose of good luck to stay at the helm of the Mighty Bucs.

The last two times Pirates were crowned league champions, the victorious coaches were fired early in the following season. A manager can win the league at Pirates, but if the side is deemed not to be suitably entertaining then he will “part ways with the team amicably.” For all its fascination with the English game, the South African football fraternity has not learned some important lessons from it.

Alex Ferguson has been to these shores three times with his Red Devils in the past twenty years. In that same period, Pirates have employed over thirty head coaches, none serving longer than Krol’s three years. Needless to say, the constant chopping and changing had a negative effect on the team’s performance. Success has come in dribs and drabs, and when the 2010-2011 season started, Pirates had not won a major tournament in eight years.

That ghost was laid to rest in October 2010 as Pirates annexed the MTN 8. At Pirates, however, winning a trophy is a double-edged sword. It does offer some reprieve, but it also heightens expectations. And so when Krol guided the Mighty Bucs to the Telkom Cup final only to lose brutally 3-1 to bitter Soweto rivals Kaizer Chiefs, his head was on the chopping block. In fact, Krol’s head has been on the block every time a point was dropped. But in retrospect, that Telkom Cup derby was the turning point in the Pirates’ season.

In a May 23 radio interview, Krol revealed that at the first training session after the loss to Chiefs in December, he called his players around and told them that, painful as it was, that was not the last loss they were going to suffer in their careers. And anyway, the season was far from over, what was important was how they were going to finish at the end of the season. The team duly heeded his call and went on a sixteen-game unbeaten spree, with Krol egging them on from the sidelines reliably clad in his lucky orange shirt.

With five league matches left to play, Pirates Nation prematurely predicted that “We are going to win the league,” despite several other teams being in the title chase. A 3-0 drubbing by Ajax Cape Town — a club founded in 1999 as a joint venture between Ajax Amsterdam and a South African group — ended the Bucs’ unbeaten run on March 16 . Suddenly, being crowned champions did not look like a foregone conclusion. Pirates won the next two games so that with three games left four teams — Pirates, Chiefs, Ajax, and Sundowns — had a chance to win the league. This was no time to blink.

But Pirates blinked. They lost 1-0 to Supersport at home, and needed a 92nd minute equalizer to draw 1-1 away at Santos. On the final day of the season, the team’s destiny was not in their hands. A win against Maritzburg United at home would hand Ajax Cape Town their first league title. If Ajax drew and Pirates won, however, Pirates would be the champions on goal difference. There was also the small matter of a so-called dark horse in the form of Kaizer Chiefs, arithmetically still in the running.

Despite my initial boycott of PSL games due to the cover charge being doubled at the beginning of the season, I have regularly attended Pirates’ games at Orlando Stadium this season. However, I could not conjure up the courage to go to the stadium for the deciding match this past Saturday for fear of having my heart broken into a million pieces. Too painful to imagine.

But somehow, someway, Ajax failed to muster a win. They led 1-0 at the break, only for Maritzburg to claw their way back finding an equalizer and, lo and behold, taking the lead midway through the second half. Meanwhile in Soweto, Golden Arrows were holding Pirates to a 1-1 draw. Then, in the 84th minute, Isaac Chansa let rip from outside the box with a scorcher of a goal. At Cape Town Stadium, three minutes later, Ajax drew level. One more goal and Ajax would win the title.

It was not to be. Ezimnyama Ngenkani held on and were crowned champions in the most dramatic fashion since the PSL began in 1996-97. When the referee blew the final whistle at Orlando Stadium, he signaled the start of wild celebrations. Thousands of Buccaneer supporters ran onto the pitch to mob Krol. The Dutch coach may not know that supporters mobbed many of his predecessors in years gone by, usually after an undesired result when the messages being passed on were nothing like the pearls of affection lavished on Krol on Saturday.

South Africa in general, and its football fraternity in particular, should learn from Krol’s sojourn at Pirates. As famed playwright Athol Fugard recently reiterated, we pay scant respect to growth: “Everything must be instant — instant sex, instant coffee, instant satisfaction. Nobody is prepared to plant a seed and wait.” There are no short cuts to success. Let’s plant seeds, nurture them, and let them grow. It’s the only recipe for long-term success, and it is the lesson we must learn from Krol’s success with Pirates.

And that orange shirt, which was missing two buttons after the melee at Orlando Stadium, must be framed and hung in the office of the Orlando Pirates Chairman. Football, bloody hell!!