Eyona Ndondo

At the age of 21, a Young Bafana player becomes a sensation. Eyona Ndondo makes his debut in the 1st division of South Africa on August 14, 2020.

“And now it comes to a debut, Eyona Ndondo gets 5 minutes (…)”
– Zama Masondo, Supersport TV Commentator

The former Young Bafana player Eyona Ndondo standing in a big soccer stadium in South Africa.

These words will be remembered for a long time.
In front of an audience of millions, a great dream came true.

We can hardly put our happiness and pride into words. Eyona Ndondo (nickname: Yoyo) was the first player from our ranks to make it into the 1st South African League. On the first match day (continued after the Corona break), it came on August 14 in the game against Chippa United, probably the greatest sporting moment since our foundation in 2010.

With the score close at 1-0, it was the 84th minute of the game when Cape Town City coach Jan Ole Riekerink, at 17:13 local time, decided to substitute two young players from the reserve team. A few days earlier, a total of 6 players from the reserve team had been called up to the professional team as part of the league continuation.

One of them is our midfield strategist wearing #46 Eyona Ndondo. In the end, it takes him just one step to get onto the pitch at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg. He is playing his first game as a professional soccer player. A long road lies both before and behind him.

From the streets of the township to professional soccer #ChangingLives.

At the tender age of 12, Yoyo joined Young Bafana. Back in 2012, he was part of the first team to train performance specific; our so-called Performance Teams. The entire first year was spent training barefoot. Some of the guys, including Yoyo, didn’t even own their own casual shoes at the time. Our founder Bernd Steinhage remembers it well:

“I can’t even put into words how happy I am for Eyona. Eyona walked the distance from the township to the training ground barefoot several times a week in order to be able to train. The boys were only 12 or 13 years old then. I coached the team back then – nothing seemed more important to him and his friends than playing soccer under safe conditions. The academy had very rudimentary facilities back then. There was no clubhouse, no
transportation, and no open field. We often trained on the grass of a school. I also don’t remember Eyona missing even one practice. His skills on the field and strong personality quickly made him a leader. So when he was first invited to train with the professionals at Cape Town City a year and a half ago by club legend Benni McCarthy, I knew he would get his chance. Despite his debut, Eyona now faces tough challenges. Everyone knows how tough the soccer business can be, and in the end it’s the players who maintain their discipline and continue to develop through hard work who come out on top. And I definitely believe Eyona can do that. My team and I will do everything for it!” – Bernd

Eyona Ndondo, former player of the Young Bafana Soccer Academy, standing on a football at a gym.

Facing Adversity

About 150,000 people live in the Lwandle Township community, where Eyona comes from, most of them in difficult conditions. There will be few who have not noticed his development and professional debut.

“Of course, his success has an extremely great shine on the community and especially on young players from our academy who want to emulate him. Everyone is happy for Eyona. Nevertheless, he will also get into situations where other people from the township will ask him for money. Unfortunately, many now think he’s a professional – and professionals all make millions, after all. Eyona is still very far from that. For comparison: From my time in
Germany, I know that in the German A Youth Bundesliga, young people can theoretically earn several thousand euros. In South Africa, on the other hand, you are among the privileged youth players if a club contributes to the travel costs from the township to training. It’s a night and day difference,”, says our former U19 coach Veron.

Potential to become a talent factory?

Young Bafana is and remains a non-profit project that, at the core of its work, we are dedicated to providing soccer and education to children and young people from underprivileged backgrounds. The sporting successes can be seen as a kind of healthy selection, which can be traced back to our scouting principle and our football-specific work. Only a few players will ever get the opportunity to take a step towards professional football. The focus remains on the holistic development of all children and young people who come to Young Bafana, regardless of individual talent.

Former player of the Young Bafana soccer academy Eyona Ndondo wearing a blue Cape Town City FC jersey.

From another point of view, we feel a great motivation, because originally we never took the approach of training players with the appropriate qualities. Today, we look back and realize what we have achieved as an NGO with only very limited resources up to this point.

Currently we have four more players placed in reserve teams (DISKI) in 1st division clubs. All of them are former teammates of Yoyo and belong to the first Performance Team vintage. In addition, we have our second professional player Asanda Dyani (2nd league, Free State Stars), as well as Keino and Lance, who are both studying and playing soccer at colleges in the USA.

What does Yoyo actually say about his debut?

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who have supported me since day 1 and throughout my development. It motivates me incredibly and makes me appreciate every moment on and off the field. I will continue to work hard to make everyone proud who believes in me. Especially that goes for my family. Thank you.” – Yoyo via WhatsApp from Johannesburg.

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