The journey to football stardom beckons for aspirant player Sipho Sibiya via the 2018 Nedbank Ke Yona Team. The youthful player from the town Kuruman in Northern Cape is one of the lucky 16 players in the squad of the talent identification initiative sponsored by the bank which is one the largest established banks in South Africa.

Sibiya was one of the 16 peers who rejoiced making up the 2018 Ke Yona Team Search to tackle the Nedbank Cup defending champion Free State Stars on 9 September. Dubbed Ke Yona Challenge the match will be played at the Makhulong Stadium in Thembisa, near Johannesburg. The team of mainly u.23 players was announced recently, 8 August at a function held at the headquarters of the bank in Johannesburg.

For Sibiya (23), selection means he finally must let his muscle strength bring fruition to team’s success and the dream to be scouted by one professional teams in the Premier Soccer League. The team success will be to plot the downfall of Ea Lla Koto during the eagerly-awaited encounter which will test the ability of all players in the Ke Yona Team.

Sibiya is faced with assignment to give a good account of himself to reward the many hours spent sweating at intensive training at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria.

His gruelling journey began with a long trip (800,8km return) from his current home in Kuruman to Bloemfontein to attend trials at the Dr RP Molemela Stadium. “I left home a day before the trials. I left home at about 05:00 and went to Bloemfontein where I slept over at my friend’s house. I attended trials the following day,” said Sibiya.

The one-day trials were held during April in the Free State capital city. Sibiya made lasting impression beyond convincing the coaches, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba, Mike Mangena and Khabo Zondo – ultimately made into the Ke Yona Team. His talent for football was identified by the coaches who saw more than 16000 hopeful players who attended trials at five centres in the country.

Sibiya is versality to play in three positions, forward, both right and left wings stood him in a good stead. His ability, coupled with consistent form convinced the three knowledgeable coaches to select him for the 23 group from which the 16 players were chosen. Presumably coaches consider the young lad would be a suitable alternative to provide the team offensive options in an encounter which demands players with big match temperament.

Sibiya cut his teeth in the game playing for non-professional teams, such as Young Pirates, City Lions (SAB League clubs) and Real Hearts, a team campaigning in the ABC Motsepe League, a third-tier division run by the South African Football Association (Safa).