Ndlendle’s reach for the stars at the Mamelodi Sundowns junior’s football academy is taking strain from the current Covid-19 outbreak.
Twenty-year-old Likhanyile Ndlendle’s reach for the stars at the Mamelodi Sundowns junior’s football academy is taking strain from the current Covid-19 outbreak which sent him homewards to Galeshewe just as he started out training with the big boys.
Ndlendle, who is Galeshewe natural, was groomed in Carletonville, North West situated about 60 kilometres from the Gauteng metropole in his tender years. He and the rest of the family had followed Dad Joseph to his workplace in North West.
Once he entered his teens his football fanatic father enrolled him at the Bophelo Football Academy in Carletonville in 2014. The following year he signed up for football trials organised by several coaches in nearby Gauteng.
His skills with the ball caught the eye of Mamelodi Sundowns scout and junior’s coach Isaac Shai who invited Ndlendle over to the Chloorkop’s junior academy for a proper assessment.
He easily fitted into the junior team set-up at Sundowns.
“I made my first overseas trip while in this squad,” Ndlendle said. “We went to England in 2015 with coach Isaac Shai to partake in the Nike tournament hosted by Manchester United who shared a sponsor with us. Other teams were from Real Madrid in Spain and Mexico including a few others from around England.”
Former professional football player, also turned a junior’s coach at Sundowns, Godfrey Sapula invited him to join the club’s Under-17 squad.
“I went to play in Mainland China in 2017 with Sapula where we went to play in the Gothia Cup which we won over the hosts in Wuhan, China.”
The young Ndlendle had no hassles beating the hoops at the junior Sundowns side and was soon ushered into the Under-19 squad in 2019 under the guidance of coach Mike Manzini.
From there Ndlendle breezed into the more organised setups of the ABC Motsepe League and had a peep but was short of playing in the MultiChoice Diski Challenge. Alongside this stint were still more opportunities for him in the Future Champs programme which is primarily an international tournament managed by Safa.
At this stage, Ndlendle hooked up with coaches David Notoana and Sundowns stalwarts Surprise Moriri and Sapula. It was during this stage as a junior side candidate that he, along with other hopefuls, were from time to time invited by senior Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane to train with the senior team.
Ndlendle has thus far made his way into several select teams representing either his club or country. Among them was being selected for the South African leg of the Copa Coca-Cola Cup in 2016. “We went to a two-week camp in Paris, France,” he told the DFA.
“Over there I met my personal hero Javi Hernandez the number 6 legend of FC Barcelona. We were mostly tutored by coaches from PSG. (Paris Saint-Germain)
“At Sundowns the coach (Mosimane) had the idea that myself and two other junior players must familiarise ourselves with the style of the senior team in case we get a break to be called up for duty. He wanted us to be ready and equal to the task, I suppose.
“The coach frequently invited us to join the senior team for their morning sessions,” he added. “Now this Covid break came in the middle of all that. We were all sent home to stay out the (Covid-19) crisis.”
Despite this setback, Ndlendle is still focused on his football career. Under the watchful eye of his doting father Joseph, he makes it to the gym at the Galeshewe multisports complex at least twice a day.
That apart, he is also preparing for life after football in say 15 years when he says he will try to make a living away from his first love, football.