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Development on fast track

THE annual festive season tournaments, which are played across villages and townships in South Africa, are adding value to the growth of soccer. So says former Bafana Bafana striker Pollen Ndlanya.

Though PSL club bosses were against their players taking part in such tournaments, the games have served as a conveyor belt of talent in the country. A great number of players have graduated from the games and secured contracts with PSL teams.

Ndlanya is over the moon that the Gauteng government and certain municipalities have adopted some of these competitions, which are organised by former and current players as well as ordinary community members to help fast-track soccer development.

"In the past the Godfrey Moloi Goodwill Games in Mapetla (Soweto) was the only big tournament," said Ndlanya.

"You will recall that people like Thabo Mooki, Jacob Lekgetho and Tshepo Molatedi were some of the products of the Godfrey Moloi Goodwill Games. When I started the Pollen Ndlanya Games, Jabu Pule (Mahlangu) was one of our players.

"These tournaments are adding value to development because we are now seeing PSL clubs sending scouts to watch our games and those played in Tembisa, Atteridgeville, Limpopo, Durban and Mangaung.

"I'm so proud that three of the youngsters who featured in my tournament in the past three to four years have turned professional.

"Two of them, Musa Nyatama and Doctor Mampuru, are now on the books of Mamelodi Sundowns.

"The third, Lwazi Skosana, has been signed by Moroka Swallows," said Ndlanya, who has also played for Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, AmaZulu, Bursaspor and Goztepe in Turkey.

The majority of recent graduates of these tournaments are from Soweto where they played in KwaMahlobo Games in Meadowlands and the various competitions organised by the Soweto and Local Football Association, including the Clinix Stix Morewa Cup.

Edward Manqele (Sundowns), Bhongolethu Jayiya, Katleho Pule (both from BidVest Wits), Khethowakwe Masuku (Pirates) featured in various Soweto competitions such as Discovery Walter Sisulu Cup and Putco Under-15 Tournament.

Manqele played for Sipho Khuse's Topzone from Mohlakeng two years ago in the Soweto off-season competitions before joining Free State Stars, Pule for Hungry Lions, Masuku for Orlando Kwaitos and Jayiya Dlamini Super Spurs.

Masuku, Wits' Sibusiso Vilakazi and Siya Nhlapo of Jomo Cosmos also played in the KwaMahlobo Games, which produced other household names such as Reneilwe Letsholonyane, Excellent Walaza, Sibusiso Mazibuko and Edward Williams.

Moving to Tshwane, Thabiso Nkoana of SuperSport United, Samuel Mabunda (Black Leopards) and the late Moeketsi Nthete are recent products of the Lucas Moripe Goodwill Games in Atteridgeville.

Nthete, who was on loan from Pirates, is one of the four National First Division outfit Polokwane City's players who passed on in a car accident in Polokwane last month.

"The Gauteng government decided to get involved in these tournaments because they play a big role in the development of soccer.

"No wonder PSL clubs are using them to search for new players," said elated MEC for sports Lebogang Maile.