Sixty percent of South African children are growing up without a father in their household. Ubuntu Football is a non-profit soccer academy with a focus on mentoring and educating the next generation of leaders in South Africa. Starting with boys at 11-years-old and investing in them for the next 7+ years of their life, Ubuntu provides elite soccer training, a quality education through their own independent school, mentorship and leadership training, and a loving home at the academy residence. While it would be amazing if one of the Ubuntu players became the next great soccer star, the real hope is that through their mentorship and education, they will become great fathers, community leaders, and role models for the future of South Africa.
This series is dedicated to sharing their stories.
Luto was born in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, but his family moved to Cape Town early in his childhood. He grew up in Masiphumelele, a township where he attended Ukhanyo Primary School. Luto’s English was minimal when he began school, but in his early years he started playing soccer for a local team called Fish Hoek AFC. There he met players from different communities around Cape Town, and he was ultimately recruited by Ubuntu Football Academy. Ubuntu asked him to join the academy in 2012, which came with some significant shifts to Luto’s life including a new school, beginning to speak English, and full immersion into Ubuntu Football Academy.
Fast forward a few years to 2016, when Luto traveled to the United States on the inaugural ‘University of Ubuntu’ trip, visiting College ID Camps for exposure. Luto visited the University of Notre Dame and attended the Future 500 ID Camp.
“This trip was the changing point; it changed my whole perspective about college,” Luto said.
At 18, Luto received an offer to go to boarding school in the US, with hopes of that opportunity providing a launching pad for a college or university scholarship later. This particular boarding school gave three scholarships to students, and it turned out Luto was in line to receive the fourth. His SAT score was on the bubble, and this ultimately denied his admission. Instead of giving up, he wrote the test again, hoping for a higher score and another chance.
Luto completed his matric at Silvermine Academy, the partner school of Ubuntu Football Academy located in a small southern suburb of Cape Town. Throughout his entire twelfth year, he was applying to universities in the US with his dreams set on a soccer scholarship. Luto began the enrollment process — applications, eligibility, scholarships.
Three schools and three offers later, Luto finally signed his Letter of Intent and received a full scholarship, only to open an email a few minutes later informing him that the school’s funding had been overspent, and the scholarship Luto worked for was no longer available. Get knocked down, get back up.
A few weeks later Iowa Lakes Community College showed interest in Luto, and he began the process once more. After signing a second Letter of Intent to Iowa Lakes, Luto learned he would need to write the TOEFL exam to become eligible; his SAT score at the time would not suffice.
*TOEFL is the standardized test to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities.
It was one more hurdle. With less than a week to register, prepare, and write the exam, Luto approached this challenge with positivity and confidence, knowing that if this test didn’t go well, his dreams of attending school and playing soccer in the US might fall away, at least for the Fall of 2018.
After a couple of weeks of waiting, Luto received the news that he passed the exam. The following week, he picked up his student visa. At the beginning of August, he traveled to Spencer, Iowa, where he began his freshman year.
“Ubuntu has changed the way I think. I am more mature in making choices and my ideas now.”
When Luto first arrived in Spencer, he was met with a brand new set of challenges. A new country, a new place, meeting new people, and more. He had to quickly learn different cultures and languages from his teammates and friends who came from different parts of the world. At Iowa Lakes Luto learned a lot about soccer, developed his skills further, and became better and better. “I’ve become the person that people look up to,” Luto said, and that changed his mentality. Luto helped the Lakers to two winning seasons, a couple of playoff runs, and a spot on the All Region Team.
About halfway through Luto’s second year, his coach Ben MacRae met a coach from East Tennessee State University when he was on a scouting report in England. They talked about Luto, watched his highlight video, and the rest is history. Luto signed in January to play for the ETSU Buccaneers in John City, Tennessee. He moved into his apartment just a few weeks ago, and he is in Johnson City training for the Fall.