The dream of former Moroka Swallows and Black Leopards dribbling wizard, Samuel Ngobeni, and five colleagues to take the first South African teams to participate at the Mediterranean International Cup next year is swiftly becoming a reality following the receipt of a formal invitation from the organisers of the junior international tournament.
‘Sea’, as the retired former midfielder was known in his heyday, says he is excited at the prospect, adding that the platform is important for youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds so that they can expose their talent on the big stage.
Ngobeni and colleagues, Thabang Matsoko, Karabo Tau, Thabiso Khumalo, Raymond Kgoadi and Zakhele Dhlamini, are the brains behind the Bahludi kaKotso project which aims to 40 boys in theUnder-19 and Under-14 teams to the annual tournament which will be held in Spain in March.
“I am humbled by the invitation. It is an honour for one to have one’s work appreciated,” says Ngobeni, one of the most talented midfielders of his generation.
“I have always had a passion to work with schoolchildren and other youngsters to help them realise their dream of playing football at the highest level. It is wonderful for this dream to become a reality,” the 30-year-old adds.
The selection for the 40 players who will make history for South Africa is gathering pace with the preliminary squad embarking on a series of training camps around the country.
The organisers are using these clinics to select the final players that will head for Spain. Bahludi kaKotso will announce the final list of players later next month.
Project manager, and coach of the preliminary squad, Matsoko says lack of funds remains the major stumbling block to the project’s success and he has made an appeal to the corporate world to back the scheme.
“Team preparations may be going well but there are still many challenges we are facing. While there have been discussions taking place, the team still require funding which has been somewhat of a challenge to secure. Despite this, Bahludi are still positive and remain committed to achieving their goals,” he says.
“We believe that these kids deserve this; they have worked really hard and have the potential to fulfill their dreams. We can compete and people should see the talent that South Africa really has. The invitation by the MIC organisers shows belief in what we have, so why shouldn’t we show the same belief? These boys can achieve great things.”
Started in 1997, this will be the 8th Mediterranean International Cup. Notable participants at previous tournaments include Barcelona talisman, Lionel Messi, while the likes of Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, Ronaldo (AC Milan) and Portugal coach, Luis Felipe Scolari have often visited and supported the event.