umisani Ntombela laughs in the face of adversity.
When others refused to play soccer with him, he started his own team. When he noticed teenage pregnancy spiralling out of control in Vosloorus, his home in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, he started a girls’ soccer team. When people wrote off his team’s chances of winning a prestigious local women’s tournament, he told them: “Watch this space.”
Last Sunday, the 26-year-old’s determination was rewarded when the Silver Spears beat favourites and defending champions Alexandra Ladies to win the Maimane Alfred Phiri Games in Alexandra township outside Sandton.
More importantly, Ntombela became the first blind soccer coach to win a tournament in South Africa.
“This is a victory for the people who are never given a chance, like me,” an emotional Ntombela told the crowd. “Stop calling us names and saying we are disabled. I am not disabled; I am able to do anything I want to. A blind coach has won the tournament.”
Ntombela, who also deejays under the name DJ Master Devlon, said he knew when he entered the tournament that his team was destined for great things.
“I told [tournament organiser] Maimane [Phiri] before the tournament that he would never believe what was going to happen – and no one took me seriously. We beat the three-time defending champions and nobody gave us a chance. It was a miracle, and I am still over the moon with our achievement,” he said.
Ntombela – who lost his sight at the age of two when he was diagnosed with eye cancer and had to have both eyes removed – said he started Silver Spears in 1998, when he was nine, after other players refused to play with him.
“I used to play football, but I never went far,” said Ntombela. “People around me did not accept me because I was blind. They called me names like sepoko [ghost] and discriminated against me, saying they could
FAR-SIGHTED Dumisani Ntombela, owner of the Silver Spears women’s football team that won the Maimane Alfred Phiri Games in Alexandra. The games are organised by Phiri, a former Bafana Bafana star