By FOCUS REPORTER
THE Sanlam Motsepe Schools Cup is proud to announce that one of its 2011 prodigy’s has been recruited into the Mamelodi Sundowns Development Academy.
The player is 17-year old goalkeeper from Rietvale High School in the Northern Cape, Franco Haai.
The Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup is an annual football tournament for youngsters between the ages of 15 and 19 and is open to every school in South Africa.
Registration is now open for the 2012 event and players could well find a Mamelodi Sundowns scouts at one of their games in the club’s continuous quest in search for talent.
Haai went through gruelling trials before he was accepted into the Academy: “This youngster has exceptional skills, a good attitude, determination, and is intelligent,” said Sam Mbatha, head of development at Mamelodi Sundowns.
“Skills alone do not make a great player, but rather a combination of skills and intelligence, all of which Franco is blessed with. Our plan is to now groom him for inclusion into the first team within the next couple of years.”
Haai is one of two players from the 2011 Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup that has joined the Brazilians’ Development Academy. “We signed up two players from last year’s tournament, but there are many others that have potential and we will be watching closely,” said Mbatha.
“We could not sign the others as they were completing Grade 12 last year and were registered to Clubs that were competing in the SASFA Second Division so we could not approach them. Once the season is over we will have another look at them and make further decisions,” explained Mbatha
“This is an amazing opportunity for me,” said Haai. “My focus will be on football and becoming a professional, but what I am also excited about is that Mamelodi Sundowns has registered me with Hoerskool Hendrick Verwoerd where I will complete Grade 12. Education is important to me as I would like to study Law.”
Haai’s football career began at the age of 10 when he joined the school team to kill time while his mother, a domestic worker, and his older sister were at work and he had to spend the afternoons at school.
When the youngster started high school, his mentor and primary school coach, Mr Spandeel, approached his mother proposing that Haai joins the local football club so that he is not lost to the sport. He became a member of Ukhamba Black Aces FC where he flourished and developed his intense love of the game.
In 2010 Haai represented the Northern Cape in the SAFA Under-17 Provincial Championships and took home the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award, which the youngster admits is, to date, the highlight of his career.
“When we played in the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup we knew there were scouts at the games, but I never dreamt that I would be the lucky one to get to go to Sundowns,” said an excited Haai. “One day I would like to play in Europe. Quinton Fortune and Lucas Radebe managed to do this so why can’t I?”
Haai also dreams of buying a house for his mother and sister. “My family sacrificed so much for me,” said Haai. “There was a time when my mother wasn’t working and my sister dropped out of school to get a job to buy food for us. She has always been there to buy me all that I needed for school and soccer including transport to get to games. I owe them a lot and one day I will demonstrate my sincere appreciation for what they have done for me.”