SEVEN young soccer players from the Nelson Mandela Bay region have been chosen to represent the Eastern Cape at the Safa u-17 national tournament in Welkom from April 1-8.
The Safa Eastern Cape u-17 team will compete against the other provinces and the South African Schools Football Association (Sasfa) at the national championship under the watchful eyes of the Premier League team scouts.
A total of 18 players from the Local Football Association (LFA) teams affiliated to Safa NMB went to the provincial trials against teams from host region Joe Gqabi, Amathole, Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo, but only seven footballers were selected from the Bay squad.
Safa NMB team coach, Siya Gwambi said the u-17 home team was assembled in September last year.
“We were excited that our players made it through to the provincial squad and it’s the first time we’ve had seven players from the Mandela Bay region selected into the Eastern Cape team.
“We had enough time to prepare the team for the trials. We normally have five and below players selected for the provincial team but we are happy for the young players who will represent the Eastern Cape at the national championships tournament.”
He said the six regions that were present during the trials showed determination even though the going was tough as they were playing away from home, but the NMB team displayed outstanding skills and tenacity to produce the seven players who will fly the province’s flag.
Northern Areas Football Association’s Glenville Celtic player Kheeno Freeman, 15, said he could not believe it when he was named in the EC team.
“I played my football during the trials and I was excited to be part of the team because I like football.
“Football is my passion and I wish [to] climb up the ranks of Safa junior teams and play for Bafana Bafana one day.”
Another player, Akhona Caga, 16, said he thanked his Zwide- based soccer team, Morning Stars, for discovering his talent.
The Grade 10 Ithembelihle pupil’s dream is to play professional football in the near future.
“We are all happy to represent our province and I will work hard to achieve my dream, but without forgetting my school work,” he said.
Siyabonga Ntonga, 14, of New Brighton, plays for the Roaring Tigers team and said his selection came as a surprise.
“I’m confident that I will do my best at the national tournament and maybe get a chance to play for the national team.”
The Majimbos u-17 national coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba will also be at the tournament to scout for players to beef up his team.