Ready to impress in China

Mashwabada Shibena is itching to pit his skills against international opposition.The youngster is part of the Langa-based Project Playgrounds squad set to compete in a junior soccer tournament, in China, next month.

The young midfielder is part of a 12-man squad which will depart next month for the week-long tournament.

Mashwabada joined PPG Langa at the age of six and said the core of their squad have been together for the past three seasons.

Last year, they were finalists in the under-12 division of the Salt River Blackpool junior tournament but lost 2-1 to the hosts.

And, at the end of the season, Mashwabada won the player of the year award at the club. This season, he has kicked it up a notch and has already scored 15 goals for his team.

“I always played in a right back position but this season I was moved into the midfield. At the tournament I’ll play at right back again, which is my preferred position.

“I’m very excited to play in China. The club gave us the good news last month already and we had to sort out the paperwork for our trip. There will be scouts in China but I’m just looking to have fun on the field with my teammates,” said Mashwabada.

The youngest of three children – Mashwabada said he’s the only one in the house who supports Orlando Pirates.

“I enjoy watching Thabo Rakhale from Pirates because he is also a midfielder and is very skillful.

“On Saturday, I wore my Buccaneer jersey with pride at home even though Pirates lost 2-0 to Kaizer Chiefs, in the first Soweto derby of the season,” he said.

While Mashwabada and his team have been sharpening up their skills, PPG Langa’s under-16 boys have been flying the SA flag at the Gothia Cup, in Sweden.

The Gothia Cup is the world’s largest international youth tournament, with more than 1 600 teams taking part. PPG Langa was drawn into Group 26 alongside Hammarby IF and Utbynas SK from Sweden, and Guernsey Schools.

The boys from Langa won one match and lost two, which saw them finish third in the group.

However, they were knocked out of the tournament in the next round after they lost 1-0 to Ramlösa Södra FF. Established in Sweden back in 2010, Project Playground’s Cape Town divisionoperates in Langa, Samora Machel and Nyanga. The organisation focuses on using sport and other activities as a way of “giving children and youth better opportunities in life”.

The founders, Princess Sofia (formerly Sofia Hellqvist) and Frida Vesterberg were motivated to establish the organisation

after visiting a number of African countries, including South Africa, and taking part in various non-profit projects.

And, according to the organisation’s website, they were surprised to notice that a lot of organisations in the countries they visited often lacked focus on individual and holistic perspectives when it came to children and their needs. The focus, they discovered, was on costs and obstacles rather than on possibilities and potential. That was when the idea to establish Project Playground, as an organisation that will put a child first, was born. PPG Langa FC is one of their football clubs, which plays in the Langa/Ndabeni local football association. Their teams compete in a number of tournaments and one of their under-14 teams had just returned from a friendly tournament in Sweden. In 2014, their under-19 side participated in the prestigious Metropolitan under-19 Premier Cup tournament for the first time.

They made a serious statement in that competition, qualifying for the knockout stages at the expense of the then defending champions Ajax Cape Town.