Young hopefuls named from SA’s 2 500 would-be stars
Three talented Nelson Mandela Bay soccer players have edged out some of the best young players in the country to make the Nedbank Ke Yona team to face Nedbank Cup champions Super Sport United in Gauteng on September 4.
Sinethemba Sdeba, Thulani Motloung and Akhona Manqola competed against 2 500 other players for a coveted spot in the squad.
The trio are among the 18 handpicked players chosen by Shakes Mashaba, Owen da Gama, Khabo Zondo and Mike Mangena to constitute the Ke Yona team.
All three said making the team meant they were one step closer to achieving their dream of becoming professional players.
Sdeba, 23, is no stranger to the competition, the Uitenhage player also having made the team in 2014.
He had a short stint in the Premier Soccer League when the defender signed a contract with Orlando Pirates. He also went for trials with Free State Stars. But things did not go to plan. This time around, Sdeba is even hungrier for success.
“No matter what happens in life my aim is always to pick myself up and move on,” Sdeba said.
“This time around in the Nedbank, I have learnt not to relax. I need to push hard, do my best and not spare myself.”
Thulani Motloung, 22, of Motherwell, also a defender, said making the final team was not easy.
“I am very excited to have made the Nedbank Ke Yona team.
“When my name was called out, I was really shocked but excited at the same time,” he said.
“Making the team was the most difficult thing, because everyone was working towards the same thing. In the first camp, there were 48 players, but the squad was cut down to 23 and finally to 18.”
Motloung, who plays for ABC Mostepe League side Lion City, said his parents were the first people he had called to share the news. “They were very happy for me. “I would like to thank my family, Lion City and coach Gcobani Citwa for the support they have given me throughout my journey and everyone who believed in me.”
Kwazakhele-born right back Akhona Manqola has always dreamt of one day wearing the black and white Orlando Pirates jersey.
“I am very happy to have made the team because it was something that I have been wanting,” Manqola said.
“I would like to thank Nedbank for the opportunity that they have given us. It has opened doors for us and also given us hope that one day we can be professional players.
“It is very hard to get such opportunities nowadays. Nedbank really helps us as amateur players.”
Manqola, who plays for New Brighton Football Association side Bush Bucks, said the experience he had gained at the Ke Yona camp would help him improve.
“I have learnt a lot while I was at the camp. The equipment that we use as soccer players in the township’s is totally different to what we were exposed to in the camp.
“We were treated like professionals and everything was done professionally. Now I know I should not drink Drink-o-Pop before a match,” he smiled.
“I have to drink an energy drink and water and eat properly.”
The players will be drafted into the 16 Premier Soccer League teams for a month, so providing them with an extra chance to try and impress various coaches and advance their careers.