Our Legacy

Part One

To get a better understanding of our origins, who we are, and what we stand for, here is the story of Mthandazo Ndabeni, better known as Coach Thomas and the founder of CTYD

“I loved playing football as a kid. As a teenager, however, I made some bad choices, starting with substance abuse. Eventually, I neglected football, dropped out of school, and found myself in a dark place. Both emotionally and spiritually, I felt trapped and in need of a way out.

“In December 2001, fulfilling my mothers’ hopes for me, I went back to church. She and my church community continued to support me during these trying times. With their help, I stopped doing drugs. Alcohol, though, continued to be a problem.

 “In 2002, I went back to school, and I greatly began to miss playing football. One morning in my Grade 12 classroom at Masiphumelele High School, I mentioned to my friend, Mavala, how desperate I was to start playing again. He just laughed, but I didn’t let that discourage me. In fact, several months later, Mavala introduced me to his neighbour, Mr. Mashayela, who loaned us some football jerseys and a soccer ball. Mavala ultimately ended up helping me start a local football club called Juventas, and we worked hard over the next few weeks to recruit friends from school, the tavern, and our street.

“To my huge delight, each member was focused and enthusiastic at our weekly practices. However, on match days, most of us were preoccupied with drinking, and we failed to show up to the games. This was incredibly frustrating for the players who didn’t drink, and one by one they left the club. 

“By August 2003, I was completely alone nothing but a soccer ball – everyone had decided to quit. As such, I asked my younger brother, Abo, to find as many friends as he could to come and train. I wasn’t ready to give up.”

Part Two

“Fortunately, Abo managed rally a group of friends to come and play football, most of whom were aged eleven/ twelve. After their first day of training, each of spoke to their classmates and neighbours about the club, and around fifty kids turned up to the second session!

“With so many new players and so much use, the soccer ball from Mr. Mashayela finally wore out. But the kids had an idea: they organised for one of the boys to bring in his basketball to serve as a replacement. This level of commitment and adaptability was the driving force for the club. The kids were thrilled just to have the opportunity to play, such that it didn’t even matter if they had the right equipment or not. I was so impressed by their enthusiasm.

“Mavala continued to support me with organising our first under-thirteen games for the boys. They enjoyed the games so much that they proposed the idea of playing regularly. I wasn’t convinced. I kept telling them that with no proper kit and no money, we were not ready for this next step. This was no match for their drive; the boys insisted, ‘We will play without any kit, just as long as we can play. We are ready.’

“They were right: the next game ended at a 1-1 draw after our comeback in the last five minutes. It was such a promising start, and it made a huge statement to the already-established junior teams in Masiphumelele. We, Juventas, were the new kids on the block.”

 

Part Three

“We continued playing until 2004, but I was still drinking. One day, I was at some tavern in Luntu Street in Masiphumelele, and a guy came up to me and said, ‘Dude, there’s a group of kids asking to see you.’ When I looked through the window, it was my boys looking for their coach. It was a match day and I hadn’t shown up, so I lied to them and said the game was cancelled. The look on their faces was heartbreaking. I knew I had to change. 

“The kids went back home with their heads down, and kept on drinking at the tavern. This time, however, I didn’t enjoy myself at all. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I felt terrible for telling them this cold lie, quenching the fire of their enthusiasm. 

“Much later, in 2005, my mother said the church members had asked build a shack next to our house for weekly church services. We agreed to this, so they promptly started the building work. The following weekend, I was in Luntu, drinking as usual, when it suddenly got cold. I said to Mavala that I would go and get myself a jacket from home. When I arrived at my street, I heard the sound of gospel music and clapping at my house in the shack. I was astounded.  While I was out drinking, I had completely lost track of the time and the day. It turns out it was a Sunday, so I quickly turned on my heel without my jacket. I did not want the church members to see me drunk. 

“That was the day I quit drinking.”

Part Four

“The boys and I continued playing soccer, and eventually these young kids grew into young adults. Our club has been renamed to Young Stars Football Club, and we are playing in every league from Under 10’s through to the grown-up leagues!

“Then, in early 2018, I took to expanding our club into new domains. I was working for Gap Year South Africa, a volunteer program based in Fish Hoek, where I met a group of boys who were learning to surf through GYSA‘s ‘Ubuntu Surfing Program’. Jessica Gould, the director of GYSA, couldn’t continue teaching, and it dawned on me that I had to make sure these boys could continue learning.

“I mentioned my wish to continue the surfing program to one of GYSA‘s volunteers, Grant Larson, who hailed all the way from Montana. Grant immediately pledged his support. He started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for wetsuits, surfboards, and transport money, and this helped build the foundation for what was to come.

“In October 2018, the boys and I started surfing as the Kasi Surf Club. This, alongside Young Stars FC, became what we originally called Masiphumelele Youth Development. It felt as though the pieces were beginning to form a puzzle.

“Currently, within the renamed Coach Thomas Youth Development organisation, we have many young, enthusiastic, and motivated surfers. Each and every one of them, week in, week out, diligently applies themself in learning to tame the power of the ocean by riding South African waves.”

Part Five

“This year, we are working hard to rectify the gender imbalance across our programs. Girls need access to the education provided by sports and outdoor activities just as much as boys do, and we aim to accommodate children of all gender identities. 

“Our swimming and hiking programs were developed with this goal in mind, and they have served as a significant step in catering to different groups of children and diversifying participation. However, we don’t aim to achieve gender equality only in our participation statistics, but in our kids’ minds as well. 

“At present, to further our efforts towards this aim, we are planning to set up even more CTYD programs. This list of future programs includes music, dancing, recycling, and running. As such, we hope to give each and every child in Masiphumelele the opportunity to learn a new skill, meet new people, and have a healthy outlet for their energy.”

 

“There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.” – Nelson Mandela