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By Louise McAuliffe | Apr 01, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

CONSTABLE Olebogeng Ntaolang is responsible for taking 160 youngsters off the streets in and around Cosmo City and giving them an opportunity to develop into future soccer stars.

CONSTABLE Olebogeng Ntaolang is responsible for taking 160 youngsters off the streets in and around Cosmo City and giving them an opportunity to develop into future soccer stars.

Ntaolang, who is based at Gauteng's Honeydew police station, started the initiative after arresting many of the youths in the area.

"I come from the same disadvantaged background as they do," Ntaolang says. "They needed something to keep them busy and out of trouble in the afternoons."

Widely known as coach Lazzie, Ntaolang started the Ikage (build yourself) Youth Development Initiative in 2005 with three young boys and one ball.

"The boys went home and told their friends and word spread that a police constable was teaching soccer. After that the numbers just grew.

"I look after them. I am like a parent. I care for them and their future. I stress the importance of education and insist that after training they go home, shower and do their homework."

They train every weekday from 3.30pm to 4.30pm.

"I insist that they train at weekends too because that is when the older boys tend to get into trouble. I've had calls informing me that my players are in shebeens. I get out of bed at midnight, fetch them and take them home.

"I expect them to be role models and to inspire people. I want them to be successful in life. When they are ready I will take them to trials at local soccer clubs.

"I don't want money. I just want to help create a future for them. If one of them gets an opportunity I will be glad to see him leave Ikage."

Ntaolang was an aspiring soccer player who took part in trials with Sundowns, Swallows and Wits University. Sadly, whenever the opportunity arose to sign with the teams, he was injured.

"Maybe football was not for me but now I use my knowledge and I am dedicated to helping develop the youngsters."

London-based Hub Athletics coach Timothy Broadbent has brought Andrew Caldwell, Waeil Khalil, Connor Campbell, Daniel Waeue and Grant Middleton to South Africa to conduct school holiday coaching clinics with Ntaolang's team.

"We are having a brilliant time," Broadbent says. "The skill level is really high. You can see that they have put a lot of hours and dedication into their football.

"Judging by the smiles on their faces they love learning new skills and playing football."

Caldwell says that they are honoured to be able to contribute to the holiday clinics.

"We would love to come back in the future to see these guys grow and grow. They deserve every opportunity and we hope that we can contribute a bit towards making that happen."

Ntaolang's dedication has affected his relationship with his wife because of the long hours he spends with the players.

"I hope that one day my wife will see the fruits of the time I dedicated to these boys.

"This is my happiness. If I cannot do this I will never be happy. It is a good cause. I am doing it for my country. The young guys are the ambassadors of tomorrow - future Bafana Bafana players, doctors, teachers, police officers."

He takes his 5-year-old son Tumi to the weekend training activities.

"Tumi loves going to training and playing ball."

To view the video, visit www.sowetan.co.za


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