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We Are Young Bafana: Dribbling for life

2:30 pm AEST 28/9/18
Young Bafana Chapter 11
Jabulani is eager to take the football lessons into real life

We are Young Bafana

Chapter 10

Jabulani- Dribbling for life

On Thursday it was Jabulani’s birthday. Every year when his special day came along, Jabulani was reminded of his parents. He felt their loss more strongly on a day which was meant to be full of laughter and celebration.  Though he mourned his parents, Jabulani knew how fortunate he was to be taken in by his aunt and uncle. Though they would never replace his parents, he felt their love every day in the way in which they cared for him and his brother.

Walking down the street, Jabulani stopped to play with the kids on the street. Their legs short and chubby, they were persistent in their pursuit of mastering the skill of dribbling the half-inflated soccer ball through the many obstacles of litter on the street.

Jabulani easily took control of the ball while weaving it through the little one's legs. When Jabulani first began training with Young Bafana Soccer Academy, John’s very first lesson to him was that if he wanted to become a soccer professional he would have to learn how to dribble like Qalinge.  He couldn’t just kick and run, he had to learn how to control the ball and the circumstances surrounding the game.



John had begun by teaching him that he should walk slowly while dribbling the ball between his two feet using the inner part of his foot. Jabulani laughed as he remembered how frustrated he would become as he consistently managed to lose the ball. It was weeks before John allowed him to use different parts of his feet while dribbling.

After many months Jabulani was finally able to run with the ball – head held high, knowing that the ball was an extension from him and he was in complete control of it. He could move the ball around an opponent, always anticipating the best way to combat and defend against any attack. The sense of accomplishment he felt as he mastered the scissor while attempting to move the ball past his opponent, was one which stayed with him long after the final whistle had blown.

Every year on his birthday, Jabulani’s thoughts turned to his future. Even though his aunt and uncle had taken him in, he knew it was difficult for them to support another two children on their wages. At some point, Jabulani would have to support himself and his brother and ultimately give back to the family.

Jabulani had always wanted to become a professional soccer player however lately he had been inspired watching Liam give back to his community as he taught the boys invaluable skills in the classroom. Could he too become an educator? Could he overcome the obstacles he felt were insurmountable with his academics and go on to become someone who too could guide and mentor young lives, speaking into their futures?



When Jabulani had first learnt to dribble, he had been terrible. There were moments when he thought he would never be able to do it. Kind of like how he felt with his academics. Dribbling took concentration and an awareness of the situation you were trying to avoid. With life, you had to be aware that difficulties would cross your path as you moved through it. You needed to change feet, change direction and sometimes do an about turn to get around the things which blocked your progress. And when you felt under pressure, when that obstacle was blocking your every move, you knew that you could pass that ball to your teammate, to your community and they would help you score that goal. They would help you achieve your dreams.

Jabulani was fortunate in that he had a community that was there ready to help, ready to support him. And he knew that in Young Bafana he had teammates, in fact, he had a family, who would do all they could to help him reach that goal of becoming an educator and give back to the community who had had a role in raising him.


We are Young Bafana is a collaborative project between 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.