U'hage player off to join Pirates soon

LOCAL soccer star Sinethemba Sdebe is hoping to finalise a move to Soweto giants Orlando Pirates next week.

Uitenhage-born defender Sdebe, 19, signed a pre-contract with Pirates last year after he was selected for the final 23 of the Nedbank Ke Yona Making the Team talent search reality show.

The Ke Yona team was selected after four coaches, including Shakes Mashaba and Owen da Gama, were assigned to go on a nation-wide talent identification programme.

The pre-contract agreement was delayed to give Sdebe a chance to concentrate on his last match with the Nedbank Ke Yona under-23 team which played a Kaizer Chiefs development side at the Lucas Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria on Sunday.

Sdebe was selected for the starting line-up but he was substituted after developing cramps after 70 minutes.

The Nedbank Ke Yona team was defeated 4-3 on penalties by Chiefs.

Sdebe's older brother and mentor, Mike, also travelled along to support him on his big day. "He played the game against Chiefs very well and he enjoyed every moment while he was still on the field.

"The only challenge for him was that they played him on the right back position whereas he is used to playing at centre back, but it was a new challenge for him."

Mike said the Nedbank Ke Yona officials were dealing with Sdebe's arrangement to join Pirates, and they were waiting for a call-up soon. They will travel to Pirates' head offices in Parktown, Johannesburg to finalise the paperwork by next week.

Da Gama is happy with the project and wants to see it continuing as part of the efforts by the bank to help develop the sport. "For me this is what development is all about, this is what we need in South Africa, and well done to Nedbank.

"This is the true reflection of proper development, taking players who don't even have teams – this is what we should have been doing from long ago, to take our soccer to a different level."

Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has applauded the development project by Nedbank to expose youngsters to PSL clubs. He said he had been impressed by what he saw.

"Any initiative that is as well thought out as this, I am positive towards, because that is an area we need to get a handle on.

"We need to get players at a younger age, get the right sort of coaching to them and give them a pathway that they can follow to a career."