35 aspiring young guns from around South Africa have been shortlisted for the Final Trials, and will embark on an intensive two-day programme led by the Nike core team of Eric Tinkler, Shaun Bartlett, Teboho Moloi, Elsa Storm and Fani Madida.

“Through the course of 2010 alone, Nike has hosted over 5000 aspiring footballers through various programmes including Nike Elite Training, The Nike City Cup and The Chance regional trial events,” says Eric Tinkler. “This is a testament to the commitment that Nike has made towards the youth of South Africa. Inspiring them to believe, and presenting them with opportunities that simply didn’t exist before.”

Earlier this year, Nike and Arsenal FC Manager Arsene Wenger announced the global search for talented footballers to join the Nike Academy, a high performance training programme, supported by the Premier League in England.  

Four South African youngsters will embark to the United Kingdom early next year, where, under the watchful gaze of Arsenal FC coach Arsene Wenger, they will fight it out with 96 other aspiring footballers from around the world for one of only eight international places in the Nike Academy. The eight chosen players will have all their expenses paid to live in the UK for a year starting in July 2011 and be a full-time member of the Nike Academy.  

“There are very few opportunities for South African youngsters to potentially earn a living from playing Premier League football, the league that is renowned the world over as the best on the planet”, says former Charlton Athletic FC and Bafana Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett. “Nike is offering these youngsters a platform that could change their lives forever and it is up to them to make the most of the opportunity from this point on.”

“We have visited places as far afield as Khayelitsha in the Cape and Cato Manor in Kwa-Zulu Natal in order to unearth the best talent available, and we have succeeded in finding talent”, says Seruscka Naidoo, Communications Manager Nike South Africa. “Ultimately only four boys will progress and the key lies in their skill on-field, tactical knowledge, discipline and focus.”

The Nike Academy offers non-contract players unattached to professional clubs a chance to enter the professional game through world-class coaching and games against elite academies and professional reserve teams. Since the academy’s start in 2009, eight players in the UK have received professional contracts.

As members of the Nike Academy, players become full-time participants at a residential training centre in England with access to elite coaches, nutritionists, psychologists and fitness conditioners, along with world class facilities to perform at the highest level.

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