By FOCUS REPORTER
Following a nationwide search for South Africa’s most talented football youths, four of the country’s top young footballers embark this week on a journey of a lifetime to the United Kingdom, to compete in ‘The Chance’, a global search for elite amateur players to join the Nike Academy in London.
Jonathan King, Nazan Klaasens, Khayalethu Nzimande and Reyaad Pieterse will be amongst the 100 young hopefuls from around the world competing for eight coveted positions in the academy at the finals of The Chance that will be held in London from January 20-22.
Since the top four announcement in October 2010, these four athletes have been hard at work preparing for the international competition. Eric Tinkler, Nike legend and coach, put the boys through their paces with a specialised training programme. The youngsters spent five weeks training with Tinkler at Wits where they gained valuable technical and tactical insight. A further highlight was training with leading South African club Kaizer Chiefs under head coach Vladimir Vermezovic, where senior players Itumeleng Khune, Jimmy Tau, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Punch Masenamela offered words of advice and encouragement. Jonathan, Nazan, Khayalethu and Reyaad also had the chance to witness first-hand the nature of Premier Soccer League football as Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns squared off at Soccer City stadium on Saturday, January 8.
“The competition at the global finals will be fierce, and I have no doubt that these boys will stand up strong against their international counterparts,” says Seruscka Naidoo, Communications Manager Nike South Africa. “Watching the evolution of Jonathan, Nazan, Khayalethu and Reyaad over the past few months has been inspirational and I can only hope that they gain as much from this process, both on and off the pitch, as possible.”
On Thursday, January 22, all 100 selected players from around the world will be put through a series of training drills ascertaining their levels of ability. The drills will encompass all facets of the game including technical, tactical, physical and mental components. This will be done in order to begin the arduous task of selecting the best 32 players that will duly be announced at the conclusion of training on Friday, January 23. On Saturday morning the top 32 players that have progressed will enter into a series of small-sided and full-sided games where the players will have their final chance to impress the selectors.
As s part of the experience, all 100 athletes will have the opportunity to watch the professionals in action at the Emirates Stadium, London as they take in the English Premier League match between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic.
“We hope to give all these youngsters a real taste of professional football in the UK, and shortly after we return from the game, the final announcement of the eight winners will be made at the closing ceremony” concluded Naidoo.