It happened on Sunday in the Metropolitan Under-19 Premier Cup. Mihlali Mayambela, Mark Mayambela’s younger brother, gave those who crammed themselves inside Erica Park something to boast about to the poor souls who weren’t at the stadium. Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, described the feeling best in Soccer in Sun and Shadow.
“The ball laughs, radiant, in the air,” Galeano wrote in what would be a perfect description of Mihlali when he has the ball. “He brings her down, puts her to sleep, showers her with compliments, dances with her, and seeing such things never seen before his admirers pity their unborn grandchildren who will never see them.”
But Mayambela’s life hasn’t been as smooth as the way he controls the ball.
“It has been tough growing up in Khayelitsha,” Mayambela said. “When I was 10 or 11 I was a gangster. Even my brother went through that phase, but football saved us from that life. The day things changed for me was when I was in Grade 8 and went for trials in Johannesburg.”
Just like his older brother, Mihlali went from the Old Mutual Academy to Orlando Pirates, but his heart belonged to Kaizer Chiefs. Mihlali ended up playing for the academies of both Soweto giants, but he couldn’t impress either. He returned home where he was signed by National First Division side Cape Town All Stars last year when he was writing his final matric results in November, and played in the same division as his brother.
“My brother is my hero, best friend and father,” Mayambela said. “He has done everything he could for me because I grew up without our father who passed away when I was two months old. He bought my mother a big house in Ilitha Park.
“We grew up in a poor environment. It is now better than it was before my brother turned professional. Football has made a big difference in our family. I remember when my brother went to Bloemfontein Celtic, he didn’t have the money to go to Bloemfontein.
He had to sell the TV so he could get a bus to Bloemfontein. I asked him how he would come back and he said I shouldn’t worry because they would sign him. After only two days he signed.”
All Stars signed Mihlali in an even shorter space of time – he needed just 30 minutes to impress coach Boebie Solomons. He had to juggle his matric examinations and the club and will continue to do so as he intends studying at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology from June.
“He is not a naughty boy,” Solomons said. “He knows what he wants. His head is in the right place at this moment. Hopefully it stays like that. He has all the confidence in the world because he believes in himself.”
Solomons has a video of Mayambela scoring a stunning free-kick, against Swansea City. That’s one of the two he scored against Swansea, in his six-goal tally in total, to help JL Zwane appear in yesterday’s final.
Those who have video evidence of Mihlali’s talent don’t have to make up stories about witnessing the birth of a star. But those who haven’t seen him are probably already making up stories that they were there too.
Watch Myambela scoring a free kick against Milano United in the semifinal of the Metropolitan Under-19 Premier Cup.
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