Under-21s get their chance to shine

SHIFAAN RYKLIEF

Chad Smith, 20, captain of the hosts D&G Orient FC, said the tournament will be an opportunity for players to showcase their skills and a possible trial with Premier Soccer League (PSL) side, SuperSport United.

“It will be great if we could go all the way and win the tournament, but there isn’t not too much pressure being put on us. Our chairman said he’d like us to just get through the group stages,” said Chad.

“We’ve got a good team so we’ll give our best and follow out the coach’s instructions. We don’t know much about our opponents so I think we’ll be cautious in the opening minutes of the game, then adjust our play accordingly. Our team is well balanced, we are quite strong in defense and have good fire power up front,” he said.

Former Hanover Park resident and SuperSport United captain, Ricardo Katze, is one of three scouts from the Pretoria-based side who’ll be keeping a close eye on the players.

Orient chairman, Fadiel Gasant, considers the under-21 age division a ‘lost age’, and hopes that the tournament will fill the gap between the under-19 and under-23 divisions.

Gasant, who also heads up the Cape Town chapter of the Green Smile Foundation, said the tournament is only the start of better things to come for the players. The foundation was established by former SA rugby stars, Ashwin Willemse and Breyton Paulse.

“We’ll also select a team for the foundation that will go on a road show, next year. It will involve the team going up to Johannesburg where we will set up a couple of friendly matches against PSL teams,” said Gasant.

He said the tournament’s top goal scorer, goalkeeper and player of the tournament will get a trial with SuperSport United.

Meanwhile, Katze said the under-21 age group is the perfect age for recruiting players because some players only start to blossom at 19 or 20 years old.

“From a professional point of view, there is the Diski Challenge which closes the gap between the academy and the PSL; and this tournament will allow us the chance to spot those hidden talents that never came through an academy setup,” said Katze.

“There’s a lot of players that are late bloomers and who never made it into an academy when they were younger. Now, they will have their chance to shine. I only started playing soccer at under-12 level at Good Hope who changed their name to Westridge City. And, four seasons later I stopped playing club football and only played social soccer for my church.

“At the age of 20, my uncle set me up for a three-day trial at Seven Stars and that’s where my soccer took off. I then had stints with Ajax Cape Town, Hellenic and retired with SuperSport United in 2012,” he said.

The tournament kicks off on Friday May 27, with the games scheduled for 6.30pm, 8.15pm and 9.30pm.

* The 16 teams were divided into four groups, with the top two teams in each group progressing through to the quarter-finals.

Group A: Two Oceans Academy, Salt River Blackpool, JL Zwane and FC Tafelzucht.

Group B: Fire Fighters, Leiden Fusion Spurs, Rygate LFA and Glendene United.