Thabo Cele is delighted with his selection for the Amajita squad for the FIFA Under-20 World Cup

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The 20-year-old midfielder is the second academy graduate to feature at a FIFA finals and continues his rise in fortunes having recently also signed a five-year contract with top Portuguese side Benfica.

He follows Sphephelo Sithole, who was scouted in Ulundi and went with South Africa to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile in 2015. Sandile Mthethwa, who played for the KZN Academy in 2014 and is now with Orlando Pirates, has also been included in the Amajita squad.

Cele admits that playing for the national team at the finals, to be played from May 20-June 11, is a dream come true.

“To represent your country at any level is a great honour and to go to a World Cup as well is a dream for me,” Cele said. “I have been working so hard for this for the last few years and know that there is plenty more hard work to come if I am to reach my potential.

“I must thank all the coaches and everybody who has helped me so far in my football journey, especially the KZN Academy and coach Paulo Cardoso for helping make me the player I am today.”

The Managing Director of the KZN Academy, Carlos Catalino, says they are delighted for their former pupil.

Cele is likely to be the first of many KZN Academy graduates to wear national team colours in the coming years, with the football development project having been supported by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government, eThekwini Municipality and the South African Football Association since inception in 2014.

Cele was part of the 21-player squad selected by Amajita coach Thabo Senong for the World Cup, where South Africa will face Japan (May 21), Italy (May 24) and Uruguay (May 27) in what is a tough Group D.

The top two sides in each pool and the four best third-placed teams advance to the second round.

It is the third time that South Africa have qualified for the Under-20 World Cup, having exited in the group stage in 1997, but made the second round in 2009, where they lost to eventual winners Ghana.