Raised by his grandmother in the small town of Factreton on the outskirts of Cape Town, Bartlett began playing for his church team and quickly developed a deft striking ability on the field.
A member of his church encouraged him to follow a career in soccer and arranged a trial with Cape Town Spurs, who immediately took him on. He was sent to Vasco da Gama, the feeder team for Spurs, for three months before he debuted with Spurs in 1992.
Bartlett spent four years at the club, making his international debut in July 1995 against Lesotho in a friendly. Later that year he was part of the team who took on Egypt in the Four Nations Cup, scoring his first international goal in the 2-0 win.
In 1996 Bartlett played a key role in Bafana’s African Nations Cup triumph and was spotted by an American scout, who arranged for him to join Colorado Rapids. He later played for New York/New Jersey MetroStars, but still kept his South African roots strong, representing his country at the 1998 World Cup in France.
“I always told my grandmother that I had three ambitions I wanted to achieve in soccer,” Bartlett says. “I wanted to play on TV, play for my national team, and play in the English Premiership.”
This hat-trick was completed in 2001 when he joined Charlton Athletic in England, where he spent more than five years.
“I’m sad that my grandmother wasn’t alive to see me achieve this final goal,” he says. “She of all people has been my greatest support and biggest fan for the duration of my career.”
After two years, Bartlett recently left Kaizer Chiefs, where he shared the field with fellow Samsung NextHero campaign ambassador Itumeleng Khune. Both players are involved in Samsung’s drive to nurture and develop soccer talent at grassroots level through their partnership with Play Soccer South Africa.
“In my opinion the biggest problem in South African soccer today is that there is not a strong enough development structure in place,” Bartlett says.
“We are privileged to have an abundance of talent, but we need development programmes that are properly managed. You start building a house at the foundation and, unless we start at grassroots, we cannot expect to have a national team or a competitive collection of local teams that have the ability to take on the world and bring home titles and trophies.”
As soccer heroes on the Samsung NextHero campaign, both Bartlett and Khune will be hosting a coaching event in Gauteng in September and October 2008, where children from Play Soccer South Africa will have the chance to improve their skills with excellent local and international experience and advice at the hands – and feet – of their soccer heroes.
ABOUT SAMSUNG NEXTHERO - Samsung NextHero is a corporate social responsibility initiative to grow soccer talent throughout Africa in Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.
In South Africa Samsung has partnered with Play Soccer South Africa, a non-profit organisation who aims to educate and empower disadvantaged youth through the passion and unity of soccer.
In keeping with soccer spirit and to encourage involvement in the NextHero campaign, Samsung is mobilising South Africans through the purchase of the J700 phone. The Samsung J700 is available throughout South Africa and, with each handset sold, Samsung will donate a portion of the sale to Play Soccer South Africa.
Samsung has established an in-store competition where J700 buyers stand the chance to win a trip to London to see Samsung’s greatest soccer hero, Didier Drogba, play for Chelsea against archrivals Arsenal on November 30, 2008.