MZOXOLO BUDAZA AND PHIRI CAWE
Want to reap the rewards of your soccer dream? All you have to do is to polish your soccer boots, get your body ready to dazzle and join the other hopefuls in the Nedbank Ke Yona Team search, which will take place at Athlone Stadium on Monday May 2.
The competition enables aspiring players to showcase their talent under the guidance of soccer fundis.
The campaign has unearthed talented youngsters from disadvantaged areas, among others, Nyanga’s Sinawa Masana, Kewtown’s Dean Jones and Masiphumelele’s Luthando Sixhaso.
Jones was the only Cape representative in last year’s Ke Yona squad that faced Nedbank Cup champions Mamelodi Sundowns. Sixhaso, on the other hand, came through the programme in 2014 and he is now is one of Kaizer Chiefs’ four registered PSL goalkeepers. His journey began while still a member of Khayelitsha’s Shockwaves FC. The Masiphumelele-born pushed all the boundaries to realise his dreams.
Having been with the Soweto giants since last year and now competing for a starting place with some of the country’s best goalkeepers such as Itumeleng Khune, Brilliant Khuzwayo and Riyaad Pieterse, Sixhaso is well aware he has his work cut out.
One thing no one can take away from the shot-stopper is the fact that he has the talent and the attitude to make his mark and add his name on the long list of excellent goalkeepers who have donned the famous Chiefs jersey. The 23-year-old first burst into the spotlight back in 2014 when he was part of the Ke Yona team that lost 2-0 to then Nedbank Cup champions Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium. Then a member of Khayelitsha’s Shockwaves FC, Sixhaso had a brilliant game between the sticks for the Ke Yona team, winning the man of the match award after frustrating the more experienced Pirates front runners.
That proved to be a turning point in his short but promising career as he never looked back. The way he got into that team in the first place showed just how persistent he is.
He has that never say die spirit. He said he almost didn’t make the team as he was not registered for the first round of the selection process in Parow.
“I decided to take my ID and go anyway. I was not allowed to take part in the trials because I was not on their books. I decided to stick around, hoping they would change their minds.
“Eventually, the coach wanted to check me out and was impressed by what he saw, so I made it to the second round of selection. There were seven goalkeepers among the 48 players who went to that round and my name was the first to be called,” he said.
Nedbank Ke Yona Team Selector Mike “Sporo” Mangena is adamant that the search in Cape Town, at Athlone stadium and generally, is going to be much more interesting this year. The former Wits and Kaizer Chiefs striker said that the age limit for this year is from 18 to 23.
That outspoken former Moroka Swallows coach believes the search has grown in leaps and bounds.
“When we started it was a pilot project. The age for players was 18 to 35. We sat down and fine tuned it. We said in the following year the age must be 18 to 25.
“Now we mean business the age limit is 18 to 23. We thought we might give a chance to a 35-year-old, but which (PSL) team is going to take him after the programme. We had to change the formula,” explained Mangena.
He said outstanding players from last year were Jarred “Jabulani” Meyer who was signed by Jomo Cosmos and Ian Chikhowa who now plays for the University of Pretoria.
“If I look back in the class of 2013 and the year after until last year, we are on the right track in terms of development.
We are making huge strides. Without this tournament and its sponsor, Nedbank most of our youngsters would not have been where they are today,” he said.
He commended Cape Town for not disappointing when it comes to talent. He advised the aspiring soccer stars do right things before the search. He stressed the need to eat before going to the search.
He said many players failed because they ran out of steam because they were hungry. “Cape Town has never disappointed. There is much talent in the province.
But what I can advise youngsters is that they should not get shy to perform. I know there is stage fright and pressure, but that pressure should inspire you to perform well. It must make you perform. Another important thing is that players need to eat before going to tournament. It is a long day before they get to eat again. For one to do well, he should eat and have strength,” he said.