SIX months into existence and with a clear vision to pursue in youth football development, a newly established local academy found itself face to face with one of the biggest hurdles imaginable — the Covid-19 pandemic.
Launched in August last year, Nkulumane 12 FC is an academy that aims to champion youth development in the community.
Soon after opening its doors to aspiring Nkulumane suburb footballers from the ages of nine to 18, the academy registered with Zifa to compete in the Southern Region Junior League B, one step towards turning semi-professional.
Without warning the world found itself in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic and major sports events were cancelled, suspended or put on ice without even seeing action in 2020.
The dreams of Nkulumane 12 FC, a young academy still cutting its teeth in the football fraternity, were brought to a halt.
“We had over 140 children from Nkulumane from nine years to 18 years old who had become part of the Nkulumane 12 FC when we officially launched the academy in August last year. We spent the better part of last year fine tuning our squads from the Under-9s right up to the senior team – the Under 18s – and on the administrative side we were dealing with Zifa registrations and formalising our operations,” explained academy founder Thulani Sihlabo.
The academy had hoped to make their break into the local football scene in the 2020 junior leagues season but all the preparations came to naught, all thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sihlabo’s biggest fear is that when football does eventually make a return, not all the 140 children will be back in the books of Nkulumane 12 FC.
“There is no guarantee all the kids will come back to the academy. We don’t want to lose any of our players but that is a possibility we have to live with.
“The pandemic affected everyone including the parents of the kids that had joined us so we will have to sit down and figure out who is still with us and move forward from there. I’m happy to say we have great support from the Nkulumane 12 community.
The parents have a buy-in into what we are trying to achieve and they will, without a doubt, encourage their children to continue where they left off,” said Sihlabo.
The Nkulumane 12 FC executive is led by chairman Lloyd Ncube, chief executive and founder Sihlabo, Francis Phiri (marketing) and John Khumalo (secretary).