Author: John AliuPhotos: Sundowns MediaMamelodi Sundowns is deeply committed to improving its youth development programs by investing in the growth of both players and coaches within its thriving academy system. By focusing on this goal, the club aims to create a robust pipeline of talented players who can make it to the first team and eventually go on to succeed at the highest levels of the game, both domestically and internationally.One of the key figures in the development of young players within the academy system is Coach Lunga Nobela. He recently led the Mamelodi Sundowns Under-13 boys team to victory in the inaugural Volkswagen (VW) Vaya Cup soccer tournament held at the University of Witwatersrand in December 2022.

Following their triumph, Coach Nobela and his team earned a coveted spot at a bespoke international training camp in FC Porto, Portugal that will take place in April.
With the trip to Portugal fast approaching, Coach Lunga is confident that preparations are in top gear, “The tournament is a significant competition and we are eagerly looking forward to it. In addition to our regular training sessions, we have been closely collaborating with the Under-15 team, which is also preparing for the Pan African Games in April. Our aim in training together is to help the younger players adapt to the intensity and rigor of playing at a high level, which will prepare them for the challenges they will face in Portugal.”

The club's Under-16 girls team, who also clinched top honors at the VW Vaya Cup soccer tournament, will join the trip to Portugal. Upon arrival in Lisbon on April 13th, the teams will proceed to FC Porto for training sessions and friendly matches. This presents a unique and valuable opportunity for the young players to gain international exposure and experience while also honing their skills on a global platform.
Mamelodi Sundowns U-16 girls team players also heading to PortugalCoach Nobela is hoping that the trip to Portugal will benefit the youngsters in every aspect of the game, “I’m excited for the young players to gain invaluable experience in Portugal, a country renowned for its excellent sports development facilities across various clubs. We hope to learn new training methods from experienced coaches and gain useful insights from their staff to improve our understanding of the game. Additionally, I hope this trip will provide our youngsters with an opportunity to develop their professionalism and sportsmanship. This experience will help our team excel and produce players who can transform the game in South Africa.”

On his most memorable coaching moment since he joined the club in 2015, the academy coach said, “2022 was an exceptional year for me and my team. We achieved numerous victories, including winning the Kapstadt Cup in Cape Town and the VW Vaya Cup. However, the moment that stands out the most was when the club recognized me as the academy coach of the year for 2022. I’m truly grateful to the club for this recognition and their unwavering support, which has made my job as an academy coach much easier. Moving forward, I’m determined to repay the club for the faith they have placed in me. I’m excited to continue working with my team, striving for excellence and building on the success we achieved last year.”

Coach Lunga also spoke about his long-term goals and aspirations as a youth coach, “I aim to continue learning from the coaches within the club to improve every aspect of my leadership abilities. As a coach, I aspire to develop players who can break into the first team. I believe that God has placed me in a strategic position to guide and mentor players, helping them to reach their full potential not only in South Africa but also worldwide. It’s worth noting that even the Messis and Ronaldos of this world had academy coaches who helped steer them in the right direction. My ultimate goal is to develop players who will achieve global recognition and someday win the Ballon d'Or award.”
Coach Nobela’s leadership and the academy system’s focus on player development have created a dedicated and effective program for nurturing young talent. When combined with the club’s commitment, this approach is certain to produce a continuous stream of talented players who will undoubtedly make significant contributions to the first team, South African football and beyond.