Local boy to hold PMB flag high

2015-07-23 06:01
PHOTO: supplied 

Uja’un McDonald with the trophy he won in June after being selected to play in the U19 KZN regional team.

PHOTO: supplied Uja’un McDonald with the trophy he won in June after being selected to play in the U19 KZN regional team.

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UJA’UN McDonald (15) from Panorama Gardens’ Youngwood will hoist the flag aloft when he takes part in the U19 nternational soccer tournament in Durban next week.

A pupil at Maritzburg Christian School, Uja’un plays for Celtic Pillars, which falls under Safa Msunduzi LFA. He started his soccer career at Pirates and Leicester City before moving to Pillars.

According to his father Eddie McDonald, when Uja’un went for trials, he impressed and was selected for the KwaZulu-Natal regional U19 squad.

On 21 June he again participated in the regional U19 KZN tournament hosted by the Department of Sports and Recreation and scored the winning goal.

“He went for trials again where he was selected for the KZN provincial U19 squad. He will now participate in the KZN U19 international tournament which will take place from 29 July to 8 August at King Zwelithini Stadium,” said Eddie.

Eddie said his family is proud of their son. “We are happy as a family and we are also happy for him. We just pray he stays focused, and we are prepared to support him throughout his football career.”

Bafana Bafana legend Matthew Booth is also excited about the upcoming event.

As a young footballer Booth played against international greats Thierry Henry and Steven Gerrard in junior tournaments, which he says helped shape him as a footballer.

Booth is now ambassador for the 2015 Durban U19 International Football Tournament that will see future stars descend on KwaZulu-Natal to take on the best junior stars of South Africa.

The competition, now in its second year, will be played at four venues across Durban that were upgraded as part of the legacy of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The eight-team tournament contains a star-studded field including English giants Arsenal, Italian super-club AC Milan, prestigious Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven, Turkish side Galatasaray, German Bundesliga Stuttgart and Scottish giants Glasgow Celtic.

They will compete against the South African U19 side and a selection from the KwaZulu-Natal Academy.

“It is fantastic to see such quality teams being put together by Hoy Park management, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government and the City of eThekwini, in collaboration with the South African Football Association, as this is such a vital age for these young players to learn,” says Booth.

“This will be a great barometer for South African teams to gauge where we are at against a superb collection of international teams.

“I remember playing as a youngster in Toulon in France where we came up against players who would go on to become global greats and at the very top of the game.

“Guys like Henry and Gerrard were also just making their way in the game and it was great to follow their careers after that and see how they developed.”

Booth’s experiences opened his eyes to the global game and the different styles of teams.

“I think we went in a bit wide-eyed and not really sure about the international stage, but we learnt so much in these tournaments and it gave us the confidence to compete on the world stage.”

In his career, among other things, Booth enjoyed four, successful trophy-laden years at Mamelodi Sundowns, before a brief spell with then English Premier League side Wimbledon and then a move to Russian Premier League side FC Rostov in 2002.

He was a huge hit at the club and later joined another Russian side Krylia Sovetov, where he spent five years and captained the side. He then played 28 times for the senior national side, including being part of the 2010 Fifa World Cup squad, having missed the 2002 tournament through injury.

Booth believes that, given the teams that has been assembled this year for the Durban U19 International Tournament, there will likely be players who will win domestic league titles and possibly even the World Cup – giving a glimpse into the superstars of tomorrow.

“These clubs have not only been successful in their own countries, but also in international club competitions. They have also been top producers of talent so it stands to reason we will see future UEFA Champions League and even World Cup winners. Again, this will provide us with a superb opportunity to see where we, as South Africa, stand.”

The eight sides will be split into two groups each containing four teams, with the top two sides in each pool advancing to the semi-finals. Each pool will have a South African team. The current champions are Brazilian side Santos, who defeated Portuguese side Benfica 2-0 in the inaugural final in 2014.

The Princess Magogo Stadium in KwaMashu, Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium in Clermont, King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi and the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban Central will be used to stage the event

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