Thol’ ithuba – developing inner city talent

A platform for young athletes

Article by Siphiwe Tsheu 

One of the greatest factors that influenced my passion for establishing Thol’ Thuba was seeing the needs and challenges that young people face in our communities and being able to make a change wherever I can.

Tholi Unathi Zuzani also known as “Tholi” is the founder of Thol’ Ithuba Athletics, an NPO based in Berea in central  Johannesburg, Gauteng.

Tholi Unathi Zuzani is the 1st born in a family of 2. Growing up as a young person, he always had a dream of improving his locality for the better by nurturing talent and providing sporting opportunities and platforms for kids and young people. Upon seeing the need, he was moved with compassion and established his organization Thol’ Ithuba Athletics, meaning ‘get the opportunity’.

Thol’ Ithuba was established on the 12th of October 2020 even though the vision & idea had been there for some time.” With over 6 months since the organisation was established, he has made a significant impact in the lives of children and other young people in his community.

So far we have donated 42 pairs of soccer boots and apparel to children from Berea, Yeoville, and Hillbrow who are part of our organization. The main arm of the organisation is our junior soccer club Joga Bonito. The club began with 3 boys and is now sitting on 41 boys and the majority of them have been with us ever since.

This for him is the greatest joy, seeing more young people being taken away from the streets and becoming assets in their communities.

Soccer has always been a great part of his life, having started from the age of 8 playing at both club and school level. He received many accolades during his primary and secondary school years, such as best player of the tournament and first captain.

Zuzani avers that one of the biggest highlights for him growing up was when he went to do his secondary school education at Greenside High.
“Attending at the Greenside High for me was a culture shock because the environment was different in many ways, one being racial imbalance. I grew up in a Kasi environment where we speak the Kasi language. So Greenside was a unique environment where I had to adjust to a new culture, ideals, language and other ways of doing things.”

Being at the Greenside high school came with a lot of challenges for Zuzani as he could not complete his matric in 2016.

“I became depressed and was eventually admitted at the Baragwanath Hospital, then later moved to Tara – The H. Moross Hospital. For the entire year I could not go to school. I can say being in hospital was a decision point for me because I felt like I was stuck from fulfilling my dreams.

So I decided to release myself from the hospital and told the nurse who was attending to me that I was going home. My mind was made up and I was ready to live for other people…for kids and other young people.”

One of the biggest inspirations for him while growing up was the people around him who were achieving great feats, and one of these people was Emmanuel Bonoko.

One of my greatest Inspirations while growing up was my friend’s brother who was doing big things at the time. For me, it’s a typical story of rags to riches. Reading about him on Forbes Africa for me was an eye-opener, which made me realize that one can achieve anything. But apart from all I can say my biggest inspiration is my mom.

In 2018 Zuzani got an opportunity to volunteer at the Sacred Heart College where he was a volunteer coach for 6 months. He says this gave him the platform to learn a lot about soccer and coaching, and a networking experience with other coaches, some of whom are now part of his organization.

Zuzani says that last year the club received a sponsorship from Pioneer Foods and Elite Star Trading Africa, and this for him was a great motivation. “For me, kids should not have to worry about minor things like soccer boots, and other necessities. The main aim is to make them super stars…”

Thol’ Ithuba not only provides a platform where kids and young people can enhance their soccer skills and help them build a career, but also provides a platform where young athletes can interact with professional athletes and coaches. It also provides an opportunity where young athletes can speak about themselves.

“Our recent YouTube episode was with Andries Mosehle, an inspirational soccer player who has one arm. This for me has been an inspiring story, and it was a great honour to have Andries share his story and connect with our players.”

With only 6 months into the establishment of the organisation, Zuzani has been featured on the Rosebank Killarney Gazette, Germiston City News and has also been interviewed on Massiv Metro on the morning show with Thabile TTO.

His greatest dream and passion is to study football business and coaching at the University Campus of Football Business in England. He also wishes to establish a sports institution for kids and other young people, especially those who are underprivileged, as well as those who have mental challenges.

He says that honesty and respect are important qualities to be successful in whatever one does, especially when dealing with people.

“The greatest values I think individuals need to have are honesty and respect. With these, you can go a long way.****

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