Position: Centre Mid
Personal Description: I'm from Kuilsrivier in Cape Town. I live with my mother, 2 brothers, 1 sister and my step-dad. I also have a little boy called Sesona who is 4 years old. I like reading and watching cricket.
Favourite Player: Xavi
When did you join the academy?: 2010
What do you want to do in the future?: To further my studies in theology and sports management, which could help me to do sports ministry in the community.
What have you learnt in the Academy so far?:
- About life skills, about leadership and Jesus Christ.
- About not being selfish, and putting others first
- Being slow to speak and quick to listen
- Patience and perseverance
Thulani arrived at the Drakenstein Hope Academy in March 2010 after being transferred from Pollsmoor prison when he was spotted at the Hope Academy trial there. The way he got to Drakenstein is a story in itself however. Supposedly some of the guards where Thulani was being held at Pollsmoor made up a story about him to AIS that he was heavily involved in gangsterism and was a poorly behaved inmate so that he wouldn't be accepted into the academy. According to Thulani this was done because the guards wanted to keep him in the band in his section, but he kept on pushing the DCS at the prison to get him into the academy and in the end he was the only one out of 4 guys from Pollsmoor who made it into the academy that year.
When he first arrived, Thulani said his focus was completely on football but that he was encouraged by Coach Mark to focus on all aspects of the programme, which meant looking at the faith and future side of things as well. After this he started to work on getting better grades at his matric and he said it didn't take long before he accepted Christ into his life because he couldn't ignore how God had worked in his life to get him to Drakenstein. Thulani says that before he came to prison he had passed his matric and was playing football for Vasco Da Gama reserves but that he didn't have God in his life and he felt that he had no vision. After making a commitment in Drakenstein he now feels that he has found a new vision and a new life, and he can see God working through him already as he has gotten closer to his mother since being inside.
|Thulani with his little sister on Family Day in November last year|
Thulani's came to prison in 2008, and although he maintains that he is innocent, he says that he is glad that he came inside as it meant that he found God and became a better person through the programme, and also improved his level of education. He is due to see parole next year and he has a 4 year old son, Sesona, waiting for him outside. He says that he wants to obey God as he as shown him grace and mercy, and he feels confident that God has a plan for him when he gets outside.
|Thulani (captain) and Sinethemba (coach) discussing tactics in the room|
Thulani has only been in the academy for just over a year, but has already shown himself to be one of the leaders in the cell, so much so that after Zola was released last month we gave Thulani the armband. Being the captain of the side doesn't just mean leading the team on match day, but its also about leading the whole cell in day to day activities, so it is a responsibility not given out lightly. Thulani had been vice-captain since the start of the year, shadowing Zola and assisiting him in organising the room, and in that time he proved to us that he was the right candidate to lead the boys after Zola left. He shows great wisdom in the way he acts and is also full of passion on and off the field, so I'm sure he will bring his own flavour to the leadership role left by Z. Since he has become captain, Thulani has introduced a daily morning meeting called 'Thought for the Day', where anyone can share a word of encouragement from something they've heard, or read or watched, which we thought was a great idea. Recently we have had a few issues on unity in the room which has been a challenge, but one of the good things that has come out of recent team meetings is that no-one has a problem with Thulani and that he is very approachable and easy to talk to, which is another sign of a great leader.
|Thulani and Zola at Family Day last year|
Thules also leads by example on the football pitch and in his attitude during training. He is one of the fittest guys on the team which shows his discipline and commitment during fitness sessions, and when he is playing he doesn't stop running until the final whistle. I noticed the other day that every time we leave the prison Thulani always seems to be the most tired, which shows that he puts it in every time we go out. His workrate is so noticable that Coach Bull has given him the nickname 'The Boiler Room', which seems to have caught on. Currently we're playing him in a defensive midfield position, which is where he is most comfortable, and he's doing a great job mopping up the loose balls in midfield and calmly playing the ball out from the centre. He needs to work a bit on releasing the ball quicker, but technically he is very sound. In front of goal he's not the most prolific of players, but when he does score it always seems to be with his head, which obviosuly has become the focus of much banter so that if he misses we'll be like 'you should've gone with your head mate'. That's the other good thing about Thulani is that he doesn't take himself too seriously, and he's always up for a laugh. The other week I was teaching him how to do an English accent and later in the day he comes up to me and goes 'alright mate' in the most ridiculous accent...honestly one of the funniest moments this year.
Anyway, we've all got high hopes for Thulani at Ambassadors, and at the moment he is certainly going about things in the right way.