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IT was almost like a daydream for young Soweto footballers; their eyes shone with excitement when Ajax Cape Town Football Club coach Foppe de Haan and his players entered the Senoane Sports Fields.

 

Executive mayor Amos Masondo gets a jersey from Ajax coach Fepe de HaanExecutive mayor Amos Masondo gets a jersey from Ajax coach Foppe de HaanThey were there on a mission: to scout 10 talented players who would be invited to join the Ajax Cape Town Academy, as well as hold a soccer clinic.
 

“That’s him; it’s Thulani Serero,” said one youngster, not believing his eyes.

Sello Makena, a 15-year-old aspiring goalkeeper from Orlando is determined to be like Serero. “I like Thulani because he is a great player and that he is from Soweto. I want to be a professional soccer player after completing matric.”

Sello wanted to make a name for himself at an early age, following in the footsteps of Serero.

Serero, the Premier Soccer League Player of the Month, could barely move an inch without being asked to pose for a photo with his local fans. In the blink of an eye, he was surrounded by young boys who wanted an autograph, or just to shake his hand.

Lehlogonolo Ramekwa, a 13-year-old striker from Tshepisong who plays for local team Tshepisong Brazil, was delighted to have his T-shirt autographed by Ajax players.

 

There is plenty of football talent in SowetoThere is plenty of football talent in Soweto“I am going to tell my mom to frame this T-shirt,” he said, adding that he hoped to play overseas one day.
 

Talent scout
On Sunday, 7 May, more than 200 youngsters under the age of 15 turned out to pursue their dreams of becoming professional footballers, and to be among the selected 10 who would get to train with Ajax Cape Town. The event was an initiative of the City of Johannesburg, Ajax Cape Town, Mike Mthombela Sports Management, MTN and Adidas.

Getting down to the business of the day, De Haan, together with his team, divided the players into smaller groups “so that each player can get the much-needed attention”.

They rolled out training sessions to teach players the basic rules of the game. “It is important we teach young boys good football skills at an early age. At Ajax Cape Town we believe that the youth is the future. Fourteen of our first team players are from our development side,” said De Haan.

After the coaching, matches got under way, with the action closely watched by the Cape visitors. In all, 11 teams competed, with the hope of winning the hearts the Ajax coaching staff.

The games started on a high note, with a thrilling encounter between Southern Zone and LFA South. The game ended 1-0 in favour of the home side, Southern Zone, a win which saw them through to the finals to face Meadowlands FC.

 

Football star Thulani Serero gets swamped by fansFootball star Thulani Serero gets swamped by fansIn the final match, Southern Zone came out guns blazing in the opening minutes of the first half, but their attempts to secure an early goal drew a blank. The game ended in a goalless draw.
 

Penalty
The result forced a penalty shoot-out, with each team missing three chances. It was when Meadowlands FC missed their crucial goal during the sudden death that the home side capitalised.

The game ended 6-5 in favour of Southern Zone.

De Haan, who kept shouting instructions from the touch line, liked what he saw. “I am quite impressed with what I have seen. But a lot still has to be done in ensuring that we nurture these talents,” he said. “The top 10 selected players will be notified in due course.”

Also at the event were Executive Mayor Amos Masondo; the member of the mayoral committee for community development, Bafana Sithole; City officials; and local councillors.

Masondo said it was encouraging for teams of Ajax’s calibre to still make time to search for talent in townships. “There is a lot of hidden talent in Soweto. This is the township that produced a lot of stars,” he said, encouraging other top football teams “to continue with the work that Ajax Cape Town started”.

Giving back to his former team, Serero, in conjunction with Ajax Cape Town, donated a complete soccer kit to the Senoane Gunners, where he started his football career.

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