“Yes, we are all Hannover fans now,” Vutha Mahlangu, the 17-year-old founder and coach of the team, explains to FIFA.com. The brave youngster, who suffers from epilepsy and was born with a severe back disability caused by a curved spine, is the reason why his team proudly wears the Hannover kit.
“Later one of our workers asked him if there was anything he needed, and he replied that he had just one wish: He wanted to become better so that he would no longer fall due to his disability when he coached his football team. She of course replied that it was not something she could do, and he replied that he would love to get a small sponsorship for his team. She wrote to her brother in Germany who is a football journalist and he in turn wrote to Hannover 96, telling them Vutha's story.
“Within four days the club replied that they were willing to send a full set of kit, including balls, tracksuits for Vutha and other material for the team. The journalist then raised the money to supply 16 pair of boots and shipped everything to Kwaquga.”
Official handing-over ceremony
Msibi says that when they told Vutha that his team would be receiving the unexpected gift from Germany he could hardly believe it. “He practically cried, he was so overcome with emotion. It was also a big thing in the community. Things are not easy for most people living in Kwaquga, so a good-news story like this one was very well received.”
Isibindi organised an official handing-over ceremony for which they hired a huge tent and invited numerous local dignitaries. “It was a very festive occasion and Vutha deserved to be the centre of attention. Everybody in the community was just so happy that they wanted to share the joy with Vutha and his players.”
Since then, the kit and boots have become the pride and joy not only for Vutha, but for all the players lucky enough to be part of the club. “We are all proud that we are members of the team. When we run onto the pitch we know that there will be no team that looks better than us. It is then up to us to show that we are not only good looking, but also good players,” says striker Sabalo Zulu with a smile.
And it would seem that the players are doing just fine. And, since being kitted out in their Hannover jerseys, the team has achieved remarkable success. “Although there is no big-time league, we play a lot of matches. We are doing great since we got the jerseys,” says Sabalo.
Vutha says that he would love to meet a Hannover official or player sometime. “Then I would thank them for giving us the jerseys and for the help that we received. I hope that they will continue supporting us.”
The youngster, who has to attend a special needs school because of his disability, says he formed the club because he wanted to give something to other youngsters. “I have always liked to watch football. I can't play myself because of my back, but I love watching it on TV. I wanted to coach a side myself, so I formed one. I look at what other coaches like Shakes Mashaba (South Africa national team coach), Gordon Igesund (former-Bafana Bafana coach) or Stuart Baxter (Kaizer Chiefs) do, and I try to follow that.”
Getting the kit has been a tremendous boost for the team, Vutha explains. “We all watched the World Cup and Germany winning. I knew about players like Toni Kroos, Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller, but to be honest, I did not know about Hannover. The only German club I knew before was Bayern Munich. But now I like Hannover and all my players like the team too.”
Unlike some of his players, like Sabalo Zulu, who dreams of becoming a professional footballer, Vutha wants to become an artist after graduating. He is a very good student and last year won an award for his scholastic achievements. “I hope that sometime I can have an operation, and that it will make me a bit better. I then want to do something with drawing. But until such time, I will continue coaching my team and we will try to do our Hannover jerseys proud – even if we are so far away from Germany.”