World Cup on the radar for Langa teen referee

On the ball, Simanye Mavumengwana, 17, with his technical team, ahead of the finals of the Gareth Ncaca Foundation in Langa. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

A strong will and good sets of morals are some of the characteristics a 17-year-old from Langa hopes will stand him in good stead to become one of the best football officials in the world.

Simanye Mavumengwana became the youngest person to officiate the Engen Knockout Cup finals, between Cape Town City and Stellenbosch FC, at the age of 16 in 2022.

The Langa High School pupil’s trailblazing continued this year when he officiated at the finals of the Gareth Ncaca Foundation’s under-20 tournament at the Langa sports complex, in February.

A couple of weeks ago, Mavumengwana became one of the youngest referees to participate in the prestigious Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup, at Erica Park Stadium, in Belhar.

Next month, Mavumengwana will complete his first-year anniversary as an official, after being introduced to the profession by regional official, Ngweyesizwe Tiyo.

Simanye Mavumengwana calling for a stretcher during an under-20 Clarewood and Grassy Park United clash in Langa. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

“The circumstances in my community are not so good. I try my best to be strong so it is enough to fight my battles. There are a few boys who choose this career, at this age, especially in my community. They thought I retired from football because I am weak. No, I saw that I will never make it in football in that route. I tried to be a coach.

“One day I became a referee, not knowing someone was watching. He advised me to start this career at this young age because it can take me far. I listened to see where it can take me,” he said.

Often when a youngster becomes an official, Mavumengwana says, they are ridiculed for not being good players, he, however, has game.

“At both the Engen Knockout and the Bayhill Premier Cup I reached two milestones. The other was a final and the other was a quarter-final. It was a big achievement for me to referee provincial and national tournaments. I was very disciplined and calm. I got the experience from all the other referees, especially Thembisile Windvoël,” he said.

Match official, Simanye Mavumengwana watches carefully from a distance as FC Porto’s Msimelelo Qokelwa beats his opponent from Gqeberha’s Hanley Football Club in Langa last month. Picture: Lonwabo Marele

He looks up to Premier Soccer League and international official, Abongile Tom, from Khayelitsha.

“There are a lot of kids out here that smoke. They had the wish of being professional footballers but that didn’t work. The situation at home is challenging. That is why I work hard to reach the PSL level so that I can change the situation at home.

“I am strengthened by many people, including mentors like Abongile Tom. My height and his height are the same. I want to learn from his skill and discipline while I am at regional level until I can reach the level he is in,” he said.

On the field, Mavumengwana is neat, energetic and reads the game well. At times he gets criticised about his seriousness. Yet, he believes, if he acts professional now, it makes things easier for him on the bigger scale.

His father, Thandinkosi Ngalwa agrees with the journey his son is taking in the sporting world. At home, Ngalwa said he supports his siblings where he can.

A couple of years ago, Ngalwa started a team, Happy Hearts FC, in the area, to keep the boys off the streets and on the field. When his son joined the team, as a player and then a coach, he closed a gap in his heart. When he became a referee, he continued to root for him.

Mavumengwana is also the youngest referee in this season’s provincial Third Division. His biggest aspirations is to officiate a Fifa World Cup final.

“My hope is that I become the best referee in Africa, in fact, worldwide over the next two world cups. So that is why I am professional before I am a professional. When you start, people will praise you. When they see yo do good, they will criticise you. You will get more people demotivating you and a few people saying you are doing good. I am doing refereeing because it is my passion – it is my way to success,” he said.

Match officials, Simanye Mavumengwana, flanked by Ayabonga Sikwana and Luntu Bobotyane. Mavumengwana is also the youngest referee in the provincial third division. Picture: Lonwabo Marele