Soccer scouts swarm to see Walden star

| June 22, 2011
Walden’s Lindo Mfeka.

Walden’s Lindo Mfeka.

In July of 2009, 15-year-old Lindo Mfeka nervously stepped off a plane at Louisville International Airport.

A year prior the South African soccer prodigy had been identified by talent scouts and was offered a chance to relocate to the U.S. for a formal education and to play the game he loved.

After a mountain of paperwork and a journey of nearly 9000 miles from his hometown of Durban, Mfeka was greeted by a host family he had never met, speaking a language he barely knew.

“I was scared,” he said. “It was intimidating because I was young.”

Making Strides

Two years later, Mfeka, 17, has gotten past the initial butterflies and is making strides in the classroom as a rising junior at Walden School and on the soccer pitch for back-to-back State Cup Champion Javanon ‘94.

While it took him a few months to catch up in school and nail down the language, his soccer skills needed no remediation.

“He’s without question the best player in his age group in the country,” said Javanon ’94 coach Jason Bell. “He’s a phenomenal player and can do some pretty spectacular things on the field.”

Quick and advanced

A left-footed central midfielder, he is equally adept at taking players on individually or combining with teammates – part virtuoso, part connector.

He is quick, technically advanced and his composure on the ball belies a fierce competitiveness according to Javanon club manager Ali Ahmadi.

“On the surface, he might be very calm, but I promise you, inside of him is a volcano ready to erupt,” said Ahmadi. “Of the 150 or so college-level players that we’ve produced in the last 15 years, I would definitely put him in the top 10.”

Before arriving in the U.S., Mfeka competed internationally with the South Africa U17 National Team and in 2007 was invited to train as part of FC Barcelona’s youth development program.

The Barcelona deal eventually fell through (an organization arranging his transfer reneged), but Mfeka’s reputation as a gifted young player remained intact.

In the wake of the embarrassing Barcelona mix-up he was contacted by Thabiso Khumalo, a talent scout and former D.C. United star, about coming to the U.S. to pursue academic and soccer opportunities. All Mfeka needed was a host family.

Steiers step up

Enter the Steier family of St. Matthews.

After learning of the situation from a coach at Javanon, Tony and Sandy Steier agreed to host Mfeka and Sabelo Tsambo (another South African transplant who plays for Javanon ‘95).

A parent of four already – Brooks, 7, Grace, 13, Colson, 16, and Eleanor, 19 – Sandy said the addition of Mfeka and Tsambo was a breeze.

“When you have a house full of kids it’s easier to add a couple more to it,” she said. “Lindo’s a great kid and people are drawn to him. He has a great sense of humor.”

Mfeka, at 5-foot-4 and weighing only 120 pounds, has found the physical style of play in the U.S. a bit jarring, but said he looks to his Barcelona heroes Iniesta and Xavi for tactics to compensate.

“I really like their style,” he said. “They don’t play physical. They’re pretty small but they just play smart.”

Another state title

Earlier this month Mfeka’s Javanon side edged Mockingbird Valley SC ‘94 Premier 1-0 in Kentucky’s State Cup final, the first leg of the U.S. Youth Soccer Championship Series. They outscored opponents 23-1 en route to their third state title in four years.

This weekend they head to Fox Cities, Wisconsin, for the Region II Midwest Championships where they will square off against qualifiers from 13 other states.

Pool play begins Saturday and a champion will be crowned Wednesday. The four regional winners advance to Nationals in Phoenix July 27-30.

As for the next step in Mfeka’s development, Bell said “he will be able to write his own ticket” when it is time for college. He also added that U.S. Youth National Team coaches have inquired but Mfeka is unable to participate because he is here on a student visa and is not a citizen.

Sandy Steier thinks his best days on and off the field are still to come.

“He’s a great soccer player and it brings me to tears when I watch him on the field,” she said. “But (soccer) is just a stepping stone to great opportunities for him in the future.”

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Category: Sports

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Chris Cahill

Comments (8)

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  1. Jo Ann Foster says:

    Loved the article, very endearing. Congrats on award from DeSales! Hope to be there to celebrate.

  2. jioan bishop says:

    Great article. Will we get updates on Mfeka’s progress in future articles?

  3. Ricky says:

    When he gets a hat trick against any of the other local highschool teams, does the coach of that team bench the entire starting lineup even if he might go on to be an All-American?

    Good articles Chris.

  4. Thabang Cosmos Matsoko says:

    i saw Lindo in 2006/7 from Durban in South Africa and i talked to my friends about him Boyzzz Khumao and Kabelo Mashinini. we asked Boyzzz that we wanna take Lindo to US as he got so much talent but forhim to make it he has to go. i went back to Lindos Parents and promised them i will take the boy overseas as it was my wish and we did just that. There are so many of them that we work with and Lindo is just an example and my wish is people to come donw here and see how many young talented boys we have here.

    TC

  5. Thabang Cosmos Matsoko says:

    anyone who wish to know about this boys can call us here in south africa and we are based in Soweto +27829474381 my name is Thabang Cosmos Matsoko and u can also google my name thabang cosmos matsoko to get more info about me and how do i find this talented boys.

  6. Thuthuka mfeka says:

    Hi my name is Thuthuka mfeka I’m from duran I was born on 1995 8 march and…I’m doing grade 10 in durban and I play soccer the name of team is junior eyeseas the team that lindo mfeka was play on it when he was young…and I’m young and talented I play soccer and I wish to see your boys my dream is to play for your team one day..

  7. vukile ndimande says:

    Hey just wanted to say im happy 2 hear such news about my brother lindo “cosha” mfeka and hes also my ex-teammate and boy im wearing your number jersey number 10 haaaaa.i wish 2 play with u again boy keep up the good work boss all the best at U.S