Education important for rising UJ soccer star
Talented University of Johannesburg soccer star Katlego Ntsabeleng dreams of becoming a professional player, but is equally determined to secure his future with a varsity education.
The 19-year-old sports management student attracted attention recently when he turned out for PSL club Mamelodi Sundowns in the Multi Diski Challenge (MDC) reserve team.
In his debut MDC match against SuperSport United, Ntsabeleng found the net as his team won 3-0, catching the eye of the South African selectors to be included in an U20 national training camp held last month.
While he is making his mark on the soccer field, the UJ star, who grew up in Etwatwa in the municipality of Ekurhuleni to the east of Johannesburg, said he also wanted to ensure he completed his studies before pursuing a pro career.
“The biggest challenge I faced in my first year at UJ (last year) was to manage my commitment to soccer and my studies,” he said.
“I see education as an important part of my life because in 10 years’ time I want to have at least two qualifications, as well as being a regular player in a professional team.”
Having grown up in Etwatwa, Ntsabeleng now lives in a student residence in Auckland, Johannesburg, as he pursues an academic qualification.
“My earliest memories of playing soccer are turning out for Barcelona Peacemakers FC, which is based in Etwatwa,” said the midfielder, who matriculated at Task Academy in Mayfair in Johannesburg.
An offensive player who can perform on the wing or as an attacking midfielder, Ntsabeleng said the highlight of his career was being called up to the recent training camp.
Having further developed his game at the Stars of Africa Football Academy, the teenager has targeted a berth in the Premier Soccer League as the stepping stone to higher honours.
“My goal is to try to earn a place in the PSL and long-term I would love to have a chance to play overseas and hopefully experience major competitions such as the Champions League in Europe.”
He said he needed to work more on his physical strength and his finishing in front of the net.
Not surprisingly, Argentine superstar Lionel Messi is one of the players Ntsabeleng views as a role model.
“But I also look up to Khama Billiat,” he said of the 26-year-old Zimbabwean who plays for Sundowns.
A skilful attacker, Billiat’s creative style of play has led to many comparing him to world stars such as Messi and Brazil’s Neymar.
However, the young star said he had not forgotten how it all started.
“The most influential person in my life has to be my dad (River Ntsabeleng), who has been there for me since I started pursuing my career.
“In fact, I’d like to thank everyone who has played a part so far to get me to where I am now.”
Caption: University of Johannesburg soccer star Katlego Ntsabeleng (left) has made an impression with his performances this season. Photo: Saspa