Lindokuhle “Mello” Ndletyana (19), is a promising young football player currently living in Philippi, Cape Town. Like so many other aspiring football players, he admires the likes of Ronaldo and marvels at the power, the speed, the good first touch, and what a great finisher the iconic player is.
Mello was born in the small, dusty town of Cala in the Eastern Cape where his love for football was first realised and his talent nurtured and developed. “I saw older boys playing the game and joined them. I am intrigued by how fans relate to the game and by how football makes people happy.”
Mello talks fondly about what a positive impact the sport has had on his life. He mentions playing in the 2017 Bayhill Premier Cup as his most memorable moment.
Mello credits his soccer development in Cala to having had the opportunity to play in the inaugural Batandwa Ndondo Memorial Cup in 2016, where he realised just how much talent there is in Cala. “The tournament has created more interest in football in Cala among the local teams.”
When talking about the challenges he sees and has experienced himself in Cala, Mello feels strongly about the fact that the young people do not take the sport seriously enough to reap its rewards. He goes on to emphasise the fact that more organised structures need to be put in place to elevate the quality of the sport and to see it produce quality footballers in Cala.
“Last year, I was brought to Cape Town by Batandwa Ntsebeza to play in the 2016 Bayhill Premier Cup qualifiers for Jean Marc Ithier Academy. This year, Steve Makhaluza arranged for me to play in the 2017 Bayhill Premier Cup for Everton FC.” Mello is currently playing for Everton FC. He has since found a job and is attending school.
Loyiso Qunta, a former Xhalanga Blues FC player (and the current owner of the team) shares Mello’s sentiments on the challenges currently facing the youth in Cala.
“In our days, when we played in our day we played with passion and we didn’t have opportunities and incentives – we played for the love of the game. Today, the young players are talented and have so much potential, yet they are getting side-tracked and distracted because of the effects of alcohol and drug abuse and constantly have to be begged.”
He experienced a different set of challenges when it came to coaching the young women’s teams. Apart from having to physically go door-to-door asking the parents to allow their daughters to attend practices and play matches, he also has the difficulty of having to correct the misconception that soccer is a male sport, while sports like netball are still considered to be strictly reserved for girls. Another issue is the safety of the young women.
However, both Mello and Loyiso agree that despite the many setbacks and challenges, they can see the improvements and remain optimistic about the future of sport and the youth of Cala.
As a product of the efforts of tournaments like the Batandwa Ndondo Memorial Cup, Mello in particular has big plans for the kind of legacy he hopes to leave behind one day. “I would like to be successful and make a lot of money so that I can build good sport facilities in Cala. I would also like to build good football fields with proper grass for training and playing matches.”
Beyond this, Mello would also like to build a sports centre with meeting rooms and changing rooms and halls for development projects that will empower the youth and improve the lives of the children of Cala.
Cala is yet to overcome the many hurdles and challenges that plague the youth. But, young stars like Mello and active members of the previous generation like Loyio pulling together is a flicker of hope for this community. Along with the show of support from the community members who fill the stadiums to capacity during matches, the rise of many more young stars is inevitable.