What Happened To That Boi; Mapidima Lesetja “Bally” Smart

Bally Smart (Norwich City)
Bally Smart (Norwich City)
Polokwane United
Polokwane United

Being the very vocal advocates for youth development that we are, we need to accept all the possible downsides to more and more people embracing the notion of investing in younger players and their development with the belief that this ideology will always afford the beautiful game a solid foundation for growth. With all those positives brought into consideration, it’s not a rarity for one to see many a young player succumbing to the heavy expectations paced upon these potential laden young individuals and the media circus that comes with being so gifted in this age of technology and the increased pressure to perform at a level that justifies the increased levels of remuneration. For so many diverse and often bizarre reasons, an alarming number of these players ultimately fail to become the super talents that people predicted they would be, and thus the common question in the barroom over a pint as the football plays; “what happened to that boi?”

Introduced himself as

Mzansi’s version of Speedy Gonzales, a balanced and agile forward with outstanding technique and a football brain in the Beautiful Mind category, blessed with an abundance of creativity and the positional play of an elite level trequartista. The Polokwane born wunderkind arrived in England as a 13-year old in 2002 and his prodigious talent was noticed by Norwich City F.C. who signed him up on youth terms the very next year as the lightning fast Limpopo born lad joined the Norwich City Academy at the age of 14; having to acclimatise to a new country and style of play alongside lads that had been in the Academy since the age of 9 while battling with niggling injuries were just some of the obstacles that Bally had to overcome before being truly comfortable enough to exhibit his God given talents. It didn’t take too long for the lad to become a topic for discussion amongst supporters of The Canaries as the lad’s attacking versatility saw him saw him constantly outpacing his markers regardless of which attacking position he has deployed in, many true Canaries still wonder how exciting their beloved side would be today had one of their favourite adopted sons been kept in the family and developed to fulfil his potential at the club.

Where did it go wrong?

After making one substitute appearance for the senior side in April of 2007, Bally was sent out on loan to Milton Keynes Dons (MK Dons) for 3 months where he played 11 times for gaffer Paul Ince’s side and failed to score while contributing with enterprising play and great determination; much to the dismay of many of their avid supporters, Bally’s name was included in a list of 9 players released by Norwich City on May 6th, 2008 and although the future still looked bright for the lad at the time, it seemed to be the beginning of the end of a great football playing career that never truly got going.

The club less prodigy was called up to the South Africa u/20 side for a two legged African Youth Championship qualifier against Reunion, where he impressed the national team management and managed to gain valuable match experience and exposure before signing a 2 year deal with Kerkyra who were then competing in the Greek Second Division; the then nineteen year old Bally played 21 times for the Greek side during his two year stay and also begun to feature regularly for the South Africa u/20 side. It all seemed to go pear shaped yet again when a return to England with Charlton Athletic in 2010 on non-contract terms saw him make just one appearance and regress at tad bit as a footballer, his move to 15 times Latvian Virsliga champions Skonto Riga was the last time the football realm saw the lad compete competitively as he departed the club in May of 2012 after making 8 appearances for the side. An international clearance issue stopped his move to Lowestoft in August of 2013 and prior to that he had been on trial at SuperSport United in January of 2012 with little success; where many lads would have seen no reason to affiliate with football at 24 without a club and very little in the way of opportunities to resurrect a once promising career, Bally saw the perfect foundation to build a true football legacy upon.

The legend

The former Mzansi youth international is now the Founder and Director of Polokwane United and their very successful youth structure, Polokwane United Football Academy which continues to provide young lads with a holistic football education while also developing educated football minds to one day play the beautiful game as professionals or continue to grow the game in a diverse manner of ways, much like Bally has done and continues to do as a football man. Polokwane United has grown as a football side over the years and they now compete in the ABC Motsepe League (SAFA 2nd Division, formerly Vodacom League) where they will continue to fly the flag of youth development sky high for Limpopo and the Mzansi football kingdom as a whole. Bally Smart may go down as one of the greatest Mzansi produced talents the football realm never got to enjoy, yet his dedication to the art that is football means that other prodigious Mzansi lads will be afforded the platform to become as what they dream of being and pay homage to the great football ambassador that Mapidima Lesetja Smart is.


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