Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Youngster goes from playing soccer in the dusty streets of Soweto to representing South Africa in the Danone Nations Cup World Finals
When 12 year-old Wandile Mndebele started kicking a ball around in the dusty streets of Protea Glen he wanted nothing more than to be like his older soccer-playing brother Musa. He followed the customary route of youngsters in the area and joined the local club, Protea Glen All stars, and it was that move that made all the difference in his life.
It led to him being spotted by scouts from Bree Primary School while playing a club game against Mavi Stars in Protea Glen. Ten months later he is getting ready to travel to Morocco with his team to compete in the Danone Nations Cup World Finals.
The youngster recently played in a game against the Mamelodi Sundowns under-13 development team and was identified by the academy coach as a game maker and, if all goes according to plan, he could be with the Sundowns Academy next year.
Joining Bree Primary has made an enormous difference to young Wandile’s schoolwork as well as his soccer. “My grades are improving, the teachers at the school pay attention to us and we understand each other. I have also gained so much soccer experience because of the number of tournaments we play in. I have played many more games since I came to Bree this year, especially in the Danone Nations Cup and I have enjoyed the interaction with the other kids.”
Wandile is convinced that soccer is the only sport for him now. He is passionate about the game and knows it will take him far.
“Before I came to Bree I had no idea that they had played in the Danone Nations Cup world finals twice, once winning the tournament,” Wandile said. “I knew that I was going to a very good school that focuses on education and sport, but I never realised they had achieved so much in soccer.”
Winning the national finals meant they achieved what they set out to do at the beginning of the tournament. “We told ourselves that we were going to be the team that brought Bree back into this competition. We worked hard from the beginning and were committed from day one.”
The school’s principal, Mr Kalicharan, and the coach, Bafana, went to France with the 2008 team that won the world title. They encouraged the team to work hard if they also want to travel overseas to play in the world finals of the tournament.
“Ever since we won the national finals it has been an adventure, I have seen pictures and stories written about us in the newspapers, we have watched a live game between Sundowns and Bidvest Wits, and we have had fun.”
“My brother and mother have been very supportive. My brother was the first person I told when we won the nationals. He is now 26 years old and is the father figure in my life since we lost out dad a few years ago and still helps me with my game.”
Going to Morocco will be the highlight of Wandile’s life so far. “I want to meet players from other countries especially Germany and Argentina; Germany because they won the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and Argentina because of Lionel Messi. He is an incredible player and I one day hope to play just like him,” Wandile said.
“We are under pressure because the last time Bree competed in the World Finals they won so a lot of people will be expecting a win from us and we have to work 10 times hard to make sure that we don’t disappoint them.
Danone Southern Africa is part of the Danone Group, one of the fastest-growing food companies in the world. Danone is present in over 120 countries across all continents. With 160 plants and around 100,000 employees, the Danone Group is the number one worldwide for Fresh Dairy Products. Danone’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible.
One of the core values of the Danone Nations Cup tournament is to encourage young people to believe in their dreams. Through this initiative Danone offers a sporting event that reaches out to and inspires millions of children all over the world