Bend it like Iniesta

Daryn Wood

IF everything goes according to plan a Nelson Mandela Bay soccer player could be running onto the pitch alongside his heroes, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, at Barcelona in two years’ time.
Owen Naidoo, 16, is currently at the Cape Town-based Cape United Soccer School of Excellence and dreams of playing for the Spanish outfit one day.
 According to Cape United’s website, the school’s primary objective is to develop young players and prepare them for a career in soccer, with the ultimate aim of playing in Europe.
The former Struandale resident and St Thomas High School pupil will be living, breathing and eating soccer for the next two years at the school which has recruited 30 players countrywide.
 Owen will graduate from the school when he is 18 and should be ready for the big time.
“That is my dream,” he said.
“Soccer is my passion and there is nothing else I want to do.”
The central-midfielder has been on the soccer pitch since he was eight, playing for the Swallows FC u-9 team in the NAFA league.
Soccer runs in his blood. His father, Wendall, was himself an outstanding player but a knee injury cut short his career.
 Owen was selected for Cape United after going for an intensive week of trials at the Cape Town Wynburg military base fields last year. He was called back in January this year.
The boys train from Monday to Saturday all year round. On some days they train twice a day and spend the rest of the day in the gym.
“It is hard work, but I put in 100% during training,” said Owen.
“My goal is to make soccer my career so I am here to improve my football, grow and do my best in everything.”
 The boys have “in-house” education and have classes two hours a day, focusing on English and maths with a specifically developed curriculum.
The budding soccer star, whose skills are passing and running with the ball, will have to work hard at staying on top of his game.
“There are a lot of sacrifices, but I enjoy it because it’s my passion. It will all pay off in the end.”

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