Asanda Dyani – When the dream of professional soccer comes true

When Asanda Dyani joined Young Bafana back in 2012 he spent his first year training without shoes and having to walk many kilometers to the training ground by feet.

The beginning of a rise from the streets in the township to professional soccer

With a height below 1,70 meters Asanda is a rather small and slender player. But during his trial training session for Young Bafana in 2012 the boy, who went by the name of “Zuka” (short form of the weapon Bazuka), immediately caught the eye of the coaches. His strengths were clearly identified in his technical skills, his speed and distinctive game intelligence. In consequence he joined the first Young Bafana performance team. Zuka’s squad was promoted three seasons in a row – to Cape Town’s highest youth league. In addition, Zuka and his team reach the final of the Coke Cup 2017, South Africa’s biggest amateur tournament.

Zuka has always been seen as a player who does not speak much or put himself in the foreground. He often seems absorbed in his own thoughts, often isolated but never unpopular in the team. While other players are focused on their free time right after training, Zuka is still focused on football and thoughtful about his performance.

On the pitch, he stood out as one of the most alert and communicative players. He was always exemplary in his time management with Young Bafana and is extremely respectful to the coaches.

In order to keep fit, in addition to the football training, Zuka went jogging about three times a week at 5 o’clock, in front of the school, for two hours. His dedication to his game was admirable.

In comparison to his teammates, who also live in the Lwandle townships with their families, Zuka has to deal with especially difficult circumstances. Raised by a single mother, Zuka lives in a small corrugated iron hut along with five other family members, just a few meters from the busy main road. His father lives far away in another province in South Africa. But his mother dedicates every second to taking care of her family.

On December 16, 2015 Zuka made a shattering and life defining experienced. He was attacked by three criminals in the street after he withdrew some money for his family at an ATM machine. One of the gangsters was armed with a broken glass bottle. In the ensuing scuffle he stabbed Zuka in the middle of his face. The wound needed 24 stitches. Though thankfully, the bottle missed his left eye by only a few inches, the scar will remain a part of him for life. According to his former coaches from that time, this shock affected the young boy for a long time. But his first priority always was to return to the pitch as soon as possible.

Though Zuka has a great love for the game of football, his commitment does not only stem from his desire to become a professional footballer. To move beyond the circumstances of his life in the township will afford his family some relief from the incredible financial strain they are under. Driven by that passion Zuka overcame the trauma and made incredible achievements on the pitch.

In the 16/17 season, the 1.65cm winger scored a total of 35 goals for Young Bafana in the highest youth league in Cape Town and received the Golden Boot Award at the end of the season.

The fulfillment of a dream – Asanda Dyana at the Kaizer Chiefs

When asked what he would want to achieve next, Zuka confidently exclaimed: “I want to play for the Kaizer Chiefs *, Coach.” The Kaizer Chiefs (16 million members) in South Africa is the equivalent to Bayern Munich in Germany.

After hearing this, Young Bafana founder Bernd Steinhage waited for the right time and contacted the management of Kaizer Chiefs to arrange a trial session for Zuka. After some fundraising to cover the costs of the trip, Bernd and Zuka set off to Johannessburg to follow Zuka’s dream. The head coach of the Kaizer Chiefs’ U-23 team was immediately impressed and expressed his interest after the first trial. The promise of a place in the team was not long in coming.

But in the beginning of his time at the Kaizer Chiefs he was put to a tough test. For the first two months, he was unable to live in the boarding school due to an availability issue. A temporary solution was found and Zuka lived with his cousin during that time. The cousin’s home was 40km from the Kaizer Chiefs’ training ground. It was no small feat for this 18 year old from the small township of Lwandle to find his way every morning to training and home again in the evening by surpassing Johannesburg, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Fortunately Young Bafana was in a position to help Zuka financially with the extra costs this incurred.

During his time training with Kaizer Chiefs Zuka proved his value and worth despite the greater competition on the pitch. Just before the end of the first half of the season (in Febuary 2018) Zuka was the top scorer of the U23 “Diksi League” with six goals. The public interest in the Diski League has grown so much in South Africa that the prime time games get screened on national television.

A TV commentator had the following to say of Zuka: “He is always there, he is always in the mix. That’s why he can finish that ball because he sniffs the opportunity.”

Zuka’s Way to his first professional contract

But even through his good performance at the Kaiser Chiefs Zuka began a new chapter in his journey in August 2018. Together with his mentor, Bernd Steinhage, he has decided to accept his first professional soccer contract – a two year contract with South African second division club Ubuntu Cape Town FC. The move has facilitated many advantages. He has more time on the pitch, has improved as a striker and also appreciates living closer to his family again. Sporting wise the first season at his new club did not go well, as he and his squad got demoted into the thrid devision at the end of the season.

Because of that his former coach and current agent Bernd Steinhage and Zuka decided to move to a second devision club again: He joined the Free State Stars on a two year contract until 2021.

The impressive career of the player with the shirt number 13 is a testament to his hard work and irrepressible beliefs. He has come from a small township and has already achieved something remarkable. It’s a journey that Young Bafana as a training club and the residents of the Lwandle Township are very proud of.

He says that his greatest encouragement is the certainty that God is by his side.

His journey is far from over. His big dream: PSG.

Bonne Chance, Zuka!

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