Mbongeni Ndlovu grew up playing soccer in his hometown of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, but he played a little differently than children did in Canada. Rather than cleats and shin pads, Ndlovu played soccer barefoot, like every other kid on his team.
That is still the case now, in 2021. And so, after a friend inquired about a pair of cleats to send home to a child in Zimbabwe, Ndlovu found himself on a mission.
First living in Toronto before moving to Sudbury in 2007, Ndlovu is the proud father of two girls, Kayla, 15, and Meliya, 11. He is also father to a Greater Sudbury Soccer Club (GSSC) member, his son Issac, who is 13.
Because of COVID-19, there has been a shortened season for soccer players at the club. And so, with the extra time on their hands, members of the GSSC decided to clean out the old equipment that had been stored for years in the office of the club.
And now, thanks to the GSSC and the work of Ndlovu, soccer balls, cleats, socks, jerseys and everything else soccer is headed to cities in Zimbabwe, including Ndlovu’s home city, Bulawayo.
Ndlovu has connections with the First Mobile Sports Academy, which is run by a friend. The academy fields soccer teams in both Montreal, where it is located, and in Zimbabwe.
“One day he asked me, ‘If you can find the cleats to bring to my kids back home, some don't have cleats, and that would really help me out,” said Ndlovu. “So I thought about it and I remembered that I used to play with no shoes to wear, that they’re a difficult thing for kids to get their hands on.”
He began asking friends and his wife inquired at her workplace for any donations. “I would take anything, any size, I didn’t care,” said Ndlovu. Then Ndlovu took them to his friend at the academy. “I brought them to him, and he brought them to Zimbabwe,” said Ndlovu.
Now, the donation is larger thanks to the GSSC, but also, the need continues. That, and Ndlovu is paying the shipping fees out of his own pocket. It’s an expense he said he is happy to cover, but when a shipping “barrel” with deflated soccer balls, socks, jerseys and cleats costs $500 to ship, it could be seen as a burden.
Though he is a bit shy about it, he does add that help in this regard would make it possible to send more; with a little prodding, he admits he would appreciate donations. If you have any soccer equipment to donate, Ndlovu would be happy to pick it up.If you have a donation for the shipping costs, that will help too. You can contact the Greater Sudbury Soccer Club by clicking here.