We are Young Bafana
Jabulani's first Tournament
Jabulani looked out of the window of the Young Bafana bus as they slowed to pull in to the parking area in Macassar. This was a day of new experiences. After months of practice, John had finally decided the team was ready to enter their first tournament. It was always exciting to leave the small township of Lwandle. However, now that they were going to test their skills amongst 31 other teams, the boys were not only excited but nervous too.
The tournament would take place over two days. There would be 3 games for the boys to play on Saturday and if they made it through that round with the highest points, they would be eligible to play in the quarter-final on Sunday. If all things went well, they boys were hopeful that the final would be their ultimate destination.
The boys looked like one as they emerged from the bus all dressed in their Young Bafana tracksuits. John noticed Jabulani stumble as he moved around the other players to look at the field. Jabulani had been quiet during the drive, which now that John thought about it, was unusual. He drew him aside and asked quietly if he was alright.
‘Yes, Coach. I’m fine.’
‘Are you sure, Jabulani? This is an exciting day for us all. I need to know if you are not feeling well.’
Jabulani looked forlornly at John. He knew he needed to be at the peak of his game today. However this morning he had given his breakfast to his little brother. Simphiwe had been ill recently and had lost a lot of weight. Knowing Simphiwe needed to build up his strength, Jabulani was trying to help his brother the best way he knew. By feeding him as much as possible. And sacrificing what little he had for his brother
John looked at Jabulani, sensing the problem. This was not the first time a player had arrived at a game without having the sustenance he needed to truly perform on the pitch. And sadly, it would not be the last. Without saying a word, he led Jabulani to the back of the bus and opened the door. Even though John knew that the tournament organisers would supply food for the boys, he always came prepared with some extra food, just in case Jabulani smiled at him gratefully and took the much-needed food and drink.
Ten minutes later John called the boys to begin their warm up. Their first match would begin in twenty minutes. Feeling refreshed Jabulani led the boys in singing and dancing as they warmed up. The three games were a lesson in combination play. Through all three the boys had to remember all they had learned to keep possession of the ball and score the much needed goals.
Ultimately with two wins and one draw, Young Bafana was successful in moving forward to the quarter finals on Sunday. The boys were tired on the way home. They would all head to bed early to ensure that they would be able to give their best the next day.
John made sure that Jabulani was the last to be dropped at his home. Before he got out of the bus, John passed Jabulani a bag. Filled with the left over food from the tournament, there was enough inside to share with his whole family. Jabulani tried to hold back the tears as he quietly thanked John and went inside his home. Tomorrow morning he would be ready to play his heart out. And thanks to John and Young Bafana, Jabulani knew he would sleep well, excited for a new day doing what he loved most, playing the game he loved most in the world … soccer
We are Young Bafana is a collaborative project between Goal.com and the Young Bafana Soccer Academy. This is a fictional story loosely based on real-life events and experiences of the community of Lwandle, a township in the Somerset West area in the Western Cape.