It is called the beautiful game. It is where the sublime meets the divine, as Pelé’s bicycle-kick and Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ demonstrated.

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don't like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that,” legendary footballer Bill Shankly once said.


Few sports inspire as much passion as football and on the NWU’s campus in Mahikeng, the renowned Soccer

Institute is transforming passion to prestige.


Institute manager Vuyu Sambu has been part of the Soccer Institute since its inception in 2007 when he featured as a player while completing his studies.


Shooting from different angles


As a player he was versatile, switching between positions with ease. As a manager, nothing has changed and his ability to juggle his various administrative and leadership responsibilities has made the Soccer Institute one of the jewels in the province’s sporting crown.


“When the time came to appoint a new manager I had enough experience to be appointed in the role,” he explains.

The institute has four coaches, with Nigerian-born Ayodeji Ojo in charge of the first team. A total of 62 players (26 in the first team setup, 18 in the B team and 18 in the ladies’ team) call the emerald fields of the Soccer Institute their home.


Kick off


In 2009 the Soccer Institute participated in the USSA championships for the first time, which they hosted and won. They successfully defended their title in 2010 in Grahamstown with Vuyu Sambu at the helm as captain on both occasions.


“I have a very soft spot in my heart for the institute, as my career started right here. I have a lot of passion for it; this is my home,” he says earnestly.


The institute regularly holds football clinics where coaches are taught how to coach school players. These clinics are a step in the right direction, although Vuyu is adamant that football development in the province is a marathon, not a sprint.

A long way to go


“We still have a long way to go regarding football development in the province,” he says, adding that the North West ranks low in this compared to other provinces. “The Soccer Institute alone cannot be responsible for the development of the sport in the province. We need other stakeholders, schools and the provincial government to show more commitment and supply more funds to develop football in North West.”


It is advice that the various role-players in the province would do well to heed, as alumni of the Soccer Institute include Orlando Pirates midfielder Thabo Rakhale, Supersport United forward Thabo Mnyamane and goalkeeper Boalefa Pule, Platinum Stars defender Luvolwethu Mpeta and Bidvest Wits midfielder Xola Mlambo.


Now a new generation looks to emulate these Premier Soccer League (PSL) stars – players such as Wendelle Martin, Sifiso Ngwenya, Vincent Langa, Khuzi Mashabela and Michael Smit, all of whom the Soccer Institute has recruited. They are all gifted youngsters with bright futures, thanks to the institute.


And there to steer their journey is Vuyu Sambu, a student of the intricacies of the art: “It is not a straightforward game. Every day presents challenges that make you want to work harder and harder in achieving the goals of the beautiful game.”