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'Now I'm Seeing The Fruits' 29/10/03
It's not always easy being the mother of a young soccer player who has his eyes set on becoming a professional player, but it can pay off in the end, as Mamazane Old-John, the mother of Mbuleo 'Old-John Mabizela, has found out.

Mamazane, who still works as a nurse in Edendale Hospital, had to bring up Mbulelo and his brothers on her own, and there was indeed a time when she was unable to afford boots for the future Bafana Bafana captain.

But thanks to the intervention of a local football legend, Zeph Mthembu, Mabizela was able to realize his dreams.

"They wanted me to buy expensive soccer boots,"  Mamazane told the London Evening Standard, "I told Zeph that I would pull him (Mabizela) out of the soccer clinics he was conducting. Zeph appealed to me to be patient because I would reap the fruits in the end. And now I'm seeing the fruits."

Although Mbulelo did not come from a rich family, he readily admits that in comparison to a lot of other South Africans, he had a fairly comfortable up-bringing.

"I didn't have a hard time at all. I didn't come from a poor background. I had a good standard of living and we didn't struggle. This made things easy for me as a kid."

The former Orlando Pirates captain also grew up while the country was still under the curse of the apartheid rule, but refused to let this affect him.

"Racism did not affect me because I was always focused on football. I had the same opportunities to play football as everyone else.

"The end of apartheid did open up more opportunities for us because before that we were all separated. Being separated was not fair on me or anyone else.

"But everything changes. I didn't get frustrated by the political thing. I just got on with my life."

Perhaps it is due to this level-headed approach that he has enjoyed such a meteoric rise to the top of the football ladder.

Mabizela became the Orlando Pirates captain less than a season after joining the club, then went on to represent Bafana Bafana after only four games for the Bucs and soon after that became the youngest ever captain of Bafana Bafana, before clinching a big-time move to Tottenham Hotspur.

The player himself attributes a lot of success and leadership qualities to his grandmother Hazel.

"I think this leadership comes from Hazel. She held the family together. She used to tell me that sometimes I had to take responsibility for the family, even though I was not the eldest. She taught me everything that you need to know."

It also seems as if soccer runs in the Mabizela blood.

Mbulelo's father, Dumisani Mabizela, was a well known striker in his day, and played for, amongst others, Amazulu.

Mabizela's younger brother, S'bongiseni, plays for Coastal First Division side Maritzburg City, and could become the next member from the family to make an impact on the beautiful game in South Africa.

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