Former Jean Marc Ithier (JMI) Academy under-17 coach Batandwa Ntsebeza, 35, has been making big strides as a coach since leaving the Pinelands-based outfit, and the Mother City, in 2016.
He found himself back in Cala, Eastern Cape, where he was born before moving to and settling in Joburg.
In 2013, he became one of the youngest coaches to take his side to the Coke Cup final, when they came up against a then red-hot Ajax side, at Philippi Stadium.
During that competition, Ntsebeza, then aged 26, proved himself as a shrewd tactician, plotting the downfall of many teams on the road to the final. He turned a side that failed to go past the first round in the past, into title contenders.
The final itself was an interesting affair in many ways.
First it was because Ajax was coached by one of the most respected football personalities in the country, Duncan Crowie. And, secondly, Ntsebeza described that game as a battle between teacher and student. This, he said, was because, a few years earlier, when he was studying for his coaching badges, Crowie was his teacher.
His side went on to lose 4-1 but Ntsebeza considered it a learning curve.
“It was a good experience playing against one of the best under17 teams at the time but the scoreline was not a true reflection of the game because we matched them in all departments,” said Ntsebeza.
“In the end, experience was the winner,” he said.
Today, seven years later, Ntsebeza has grown a little older and wiser. He has just established a football club in Johannesburg called Sandton FC.
“When I left Cape Town in 2016, I went back to the Eastern Cape, with a plan to set up something in Cala. But, in 2017, I felt that I needed to go pro and that’s why I went to Johannesburg. I found myself in Sandton, and the closest club to Sandton was PSL outfit, Highlands Park United. Highlands Park is an old club and I knew I was going to learn a lot.”
During his time at Highlands, Ntsebeza was able to interact with, and learn from, a number of people both inside and outside the club.
These include the legendary Jomo Sono, as well as Nathan Powell.
“They inspired me. Nathan, for instance, told me about the NFL and the Old Cape Town City.
That’s when I felt like I wanted to plough what I’ve learnt back to the community. I wanted to put the experiences I’ve learnt at JMI Academy to good use. And, that’s how Sandton FC came about,” he said.
“In 2010, a football field was built at St Stithian College, and we are using that field.”
Describing himself as a football fanatic from Cala, Ntsebeza did his early schooling in Mthatha, before moving to Cape Town, in 2007.
He enrolled at Pinelands High and also worked in the hospitality industry.
“Those experiences helped me a lot in terms of understanding different cultures.
“So, I can say I have learnt the hard way, from the best which made me an even stronger person,” he said.
Now, pursuing his UEFA coaching badges, Ntsebeza emphasised the importance of keeping the eye on the goal.
“You need to keep pushing and make sure you create your own opportunities. As for Jean Marc Ithier, we are still in touch. We, for instance, talk about how he can help in teaching my players going forward,” he said.