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Manchu Inn Website

Pule Jeffrey Ntuka

posted by Mollys, Friday 03rd February 2012, 16:41pm

Two dozen young men danced around the stage, arms aloft and fists clenched, their feet high-stepping and stamping in unison. When they began to sing and clap together, the colourfully dressed congregation whooped, whistled and ululated. This was a dance to honour the dead – the loss of a local hero.

Framed photographs in front of the stage at the crammed community hall in Kroonstad, South Africa, told the story. They showed Jeffrey Ntuka in his footballing prime, a player who represented his country and seemed to have fulfilled every boy's dream by moving abroad and signing for Chelsea.

But he had not quite made it...... Ntuka was stabbed to death on the streets of the township where he kicked his first football.

He was 26 and left a widow and two-year-old daughter.

Those young men at a memorial service on Wednesday revered Ntuka for escaping this town where too many succumb to unemployment and crime. Last year, in a country with a smaller population than Britain, there were 15,940 recorded murders – an average of 44 every day. Most of the victims are poor and black.

Some at Ntuku's memorial wore the shirts of Arsenal or South Africa's Bloemfontein Celtic. As passionate speeches flowed, and pictures from Ntuka's life were projected on to a screen fashioned from a white cloth, one man broke down and rested his head on the shoulder of another, who tenderly stroked his back.

"Jeffrey used to boast to us about being coached by José Mourinho and playing with Didier Drogba and John Terry," one of the men said. "Moving to London was a dream."

Nearly 18 years after the end of apartheid, such opportunities remain scarce for young black South Africans. In 2011, fewer than half of the 17- and 18-year-olds who had enrolled in school 12 years earlier passed their matriculation exam, with many pupils dropping out long beforehand. Only about one in 10 enrols for higher education, and of these less than half obtain a qualification, according to research by the University of Cape Town.

Ntuka appeared to have found a way out. Growing up in a modest four-room house in a township in Kroonstad, an agricultural town in Free State province, he knew his destiny from an early age.

He made it through a football career and saw where his future was going..

"He shall always be remembered though the talent he had shown with football and may his soul rest forever in peace"