Rough gems make the cut

2014-04-06 14:00

Today is D-Day for the 61 “rough diamonds” left from the 123 players selected for the KwaZulu-Natal Under-19 team.

Today, the number will be trimmed by another 41 to leave the 20 who will take on the cream of Europe and South America’s league sides in the international Under-19 tournament to be held in Durban in August.

The players were selected by top-flight coach and scout Paulo Cardoso during several months of tryouts around the province.

The 41 to be dropped today will follow another 24 who got their marching orders on Wednesday.

The select group of 20 players will get their first taste of competitive football next month when they go up against SA Football Association provincial teams at the interprovincial tournament in Bloemfontein.

The 20?–?plus two others?–?will be in the Hoy Park XI, which will take on the Everton, Sporting Lisbon, Boca Juniors and Santos youth teams in the Durban tournament.

The survivors will also have a chance to sign up for the 88-berth Hoy Park football academy, a joint venture between the city of Durban, the KwaZulu-Natal government and Swedish TV channel IEC in Sports to help fix the development problems facing South African football.

Ayanda Masondo (18), a striker-cum-winger from Osizweni township in Newcastle plays for Real Senza FC in the SAB League. He survived the cut, unlike his last try at academy football for Jomo Cosmos.

“This is a second chance for me,” says Masondo, who is still a student at Indonsa High School in Osizweni.

“It’s tough and there’s a lot of pressure as more and more people are getting cut. There’s a lot of pressure because this is a great opportunity. This can make a person’s career. Even if I don’t make it, it’s been great to be part of this.”

Durban High School student and goalkeeper Ntuthuko Dlamini (17), who has been in the 10-day training camp, is also happy to be involved. He plays in the third division for Royal Tigers FC.

Dlamini says: “This is a great chance for us to showcase our talents to the rest of the world. There will be a lot of scouts present, so this tournament can make a player’s career. That’s how big this is.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Cardoso, who discovered Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, says he is “very pleased” with the quality of the players he has discovered.

“This has been a tough process?–?cutting so many players from the squad, but we have to do it. “I’ve been very impressed by the attitude of the

players, their commitment and their discipline. We can build a very interesting team from the players that we have here.

“After Bloemfontein, we will tour Johannesburg playing local teams as part of our preparation for the international tournament,” he says. So how good are his rough diamonds?

“We have some interesting players, but we will only know just how good they are when we start playing in the Bloemfontein tournament. It’s only at tournaments that you really get to know how good you are,” he says.

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