With a few weeks to go before the festive season gets underway, there was reason to cheer for one lucky amateur club in Soweto, thanks to local hero and Orlando Pirates defender Thulani Hlatshwayo and his technical sponsor, adidas.
In line with their attitude of #ImpossibleIsNothing, the brand with the three stripes partnered up with the man affectionately known as Tyson to make an impact in the lives of players from Soweto Shining Stars, a local team based in Protea Glen, Soweto.
As a resident of Soweto, Tyson knows all about the challenges faced by amateur clubs. The 31-year-old cut his teeth at Senoane Gunners, where he shot to prominence as the side’s captain, in a journey that would later see him trek to Ajax Cape Town, where he established himself as a household name of Mzansi football.
Not forgetting his roots, the former Bafana Bafana captain recently returned to his mother’s hometown to plough back into the community, gifting a number of young footballers with brand new adidas playing kit, balls and other equipment.
Speaking at the event, Hlatshwayo told Soccer Laduma, “Today is about giving back to the community. I have done it before at Senoane Gunners. For me, Soweto is home, and I want to help these young players.”
He elaborated on why he had chosen this particular region as opposed to his hometown of Senoane, who have largely benefitted from his generosity in the past.
“When you go to Senoane, I am known. I do have supporters, not only in Senoane but in the whole of Soweto and I have been able to represent Soweto as a whole. For me, this is more of an introduction. I’ve just bought my mom a house in Protea Glen and each time I’ve visited her, I’ve seen these boys training here and feel the need to help them,” he explained.
Hlatshwayo, who has enjoyed an incredible career with both club and country so far, says he hopes that the initiative can inspire youngsters to follow in his famous footsteps by making it out of their turbulent circumstances the same way he did 19 years ago.
“It would be nice to see another Tyson coming from Soweto Shining Stars. It doesn’t have to be Senoane Gunners just because I grew up there. With everything that is happening with COVID-19, it feels good to put a smile on their faces. At the moment they are writing exams and heading towards the end of the year, so by bringing them something for Christmas like this, it will hopefully encourage them to keep going. We don’t know how many difficulties the team is enduring, and I am hoping that this donation will inspire the kids to continue playing with passion.”