Opportunity awaits

The 2018 Nedbank Ke Yona Team Search football initiative has reached its peak after the announcement of 16 players to tackle champions Free State Stars for the Nedbank Ke Yona Challenge.

They were announced at a ceremony held at the sponsor’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Wednesday (08/08).

The chosen 16 warriors’ mammoth task is to strive to plot a coup against the reigning champions Ea Lla Koto on 9 September at the Makhulong Stadium in Johannesburg.

They will be led by expe­rienced coaches, Ephraim Shakes Mashaba, Khabo Zondo and Mike Mangena.

They saw over 16 000 hopefuls during trials staged at five centres in the country to decide on the 16 best players. Their hard work started in April, culminating by the selection of the 16 players – all under the age of 24.

The 16 players rejoiced getting an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in the limelight while those who missed the boat shed tears.

Delighted to be in the squad was the Free State duo, Lesley Pietersen, defender from Bloemfontein, and Thabo Mogotsi, goalkeeper from Welkom.

The chosen 16 players were selected from a group of 23 players who had their football skills fortified at a bootcamp at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria.

The squad is brimming with players who are still in the lower leagues, yet they are aspiring to make it into the big league.

Mashaba explained the decision to have maximum 16 players.

“We have been facing the challenge of being able to give all 23 players a chance to play in one match. It was very frustrating not only for us, but also for the players who had high hopes to showcase their talent.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these boys.

“A maximum of 16 players gives the coaches and the players a realistic chance to play in one match against the Nedbank Cup champions,” said the former Bafana Bafana coach.

Ahead of the tie against Ea Lla Koto, the players will further be sharpen by the three coaches.

An exciting plus factor for the 16 players is that they will be given yet another golden opportunity to prove their worth when attached to 16 clubs in the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

They will spend a month at the clubs as part of the Nedbank Ke Yona PSL draft programme aimed at further fortifying their football skills.

The draft programme provides the budding stars with a prospect of securing professional contracts with PSL clubs. In previous years, the draft was conducted in the form of a live draw.

However, this year, South Africa’s football loving public will take charge of the drafting by voting the most talented players into the 16 PSL teams.

Introduced in 2016, the draft has been a player favourite. Captain of the 2016 Ke Yona Team, Bongani Mbuli, was drafted into Bidvest Wits and secured a contract with Clever Boys.

Tobie Badenhorst, Nedbank head group: sponsorships and marketing, said they were proud seeing the players graduate.

“We take pride in seeing our graduates progress in their footballing career. With the lessons on and off the pitch, they manage both the football and money aspects of being professional football players.

“By instilling a mentality of being financial savvy, we would like the 48 individuals who have been a part of the team search to be armed with financial education which they can implement in any future financial situations that they may find themselves in,” said Badenhorst.