When Livhuwani Junior Netshikulwe relocated from Nancefield in the Musina area to Polokwane six years ago he was a nine-year-old with a dream to pursue a soccer career yet never thought he would one day rank among the country’s top young footballers.
Now a Grade 9 learner at Northern Academy, Livhuwani stole the hearts of football scouts with his rare defensive skills while representing his school at the recent provincial finals of the Copa Coca-Cola tournament held at NkowaNkowa Stadium.
The 15-year-old central defender showed great character and leadership throughout the tournament, and was instrumental in leading his team to a hard fought second-place finish with six points. His talent and dedication caught the right eyes, he was identified as Player of the Tournament and will join the Coca-Cola ‘Which Part Will You Play’ All-Star team that will represent the province at the national finals to be held in Mangaung from 30 September to 1 October.
Livhuwani said although his school did not win the tournament he was proud of the good work done by his teammates. “We really needed to win the tourney and represent the province in the national finals as a team but it was not to be. However, I am really proud of myself for being chosen as the best player of the tournament. I am happy that I can also represent my school at this year’s national finals,” Livhuwani said.
He thanked his mother, Thupi Mudau for allowing him to leave home at an early age in order to embark on his football journey. “I was nine years old when I left home. I told my mother that I wanted a school that has the best resources and good soccer academy and Northern Academy came to mind because I was impressed with the school and structures they have in place. At first we could not agree, because I was very young at the time and it was difficult for her. Parents are overprotective of their children and they want to spend every moment with them. She is no different. I promised her that I would do well in my academic studies and soccer and lived up to the promise. I dedicate the achievement to her because she gave me her blessing and allowed me to spread my wings and live my dream,” Livhuwani said.
The provincial team will enjoy a coaching and a life skills programme facilitated by Copa Coca-Cola ambassador Simba Marumo. They will also play a friendly match against Bloemfontein Celtic Academy team on the final day of the tournament and later participate in an international friendly match scheduled for October at a venue to be confirmed. “I am very excited. I have never played at any major national soccer tournament and I think this is a good opportunity me for to showcase my talent on national platform and also grow as a soccer player.
He said that he would love to make his mother proud by completing his secondary and tertiary studies before embarking on a professional football career. “Soccer is a short and exciting career. I want to quell the myth that soccer players are not intelligent and not fond of academics. I want to pursue Mechanical Engineering at Wits University after matric so that I can have a balanced life. I could have chosen any profession but I love the scientific principles to design, development, operation and maintenance of machines and besides there are a lot of job opportunities in the Mechanical sector,” he said.
He aspires to play next to Real Madrid Captain, Sergio Ramos and Portuguese defender Képler Laveran Lima Ferreira. “Those are the two players I admire and I also model my game on them. They are consistent, hardworking and winners. It will be dream come true to share a football pitch with them.”
Story and photo: Herbert Rachuene