Jewel in the rough

2014-05-30 00:00

WHILE Maritzburg United’s Bandile Shandu was in the spotlight when he was called up to Shakes Mashaba’s SA U20 squad that travelled to Ethiopia for an 2015 African Youth Championships qualifier earlier this month, the city had another representative in that squad who went along largely unnoticed.

The 17-year-old left winger Trey Grantham, who plays his football locally at Padsa-affiliated Woodlands FC, was also on the plane to Ethiopia as the only amateur in the squad.

Spotted earlier this year at provincial U19 trials that took place at Harry Gwala Stadium before excelling at a national U19 tournament in Bloemfontein, Grantham was as surprised as anybody when he got the call-up, and though he didn’t get on the pitch in Ethiopia, the experience he gained from the trip stands him in good stead moving forward.

“I was really shocked, because I play for an amateur team,” he told The Witness. “It was a really good experience and it has encouraged me to keep working hard and to get better. Hopefully this will show other players in difficult situations that they can make it.”

The call-up has put Grantham on the map, somewhat, and he confirmed that there have been “one or two” professional clubs who have expressed interest in him.

Mashaba is considered one of the country’s finest local coaches, and it might have been an intimidating situation for young Grantham to be in, but he says he took the opportunity with open arms. “Everyone in the squad was really accepting of me and they made it feel like a family,” he said. “He [Mashaba] is a fantastic coach and I learnt a lot …”

But, humble and fully aware of where it all started, Grantham paid tribute to his coach at Woodlands, Robby Cupido.

“He has supported me over the last few years. He understands me,” said Grantham.

Cupido, who first saw Grantham play around two-and-a-half years ago, said he knew right away that he was watching a special player.

“This boy plays like Gareth Bale,” he said. “He has strength, power, speed and skill — all of the ingredients to be a top player.”

Cupido was also at the heart of rehabilitating Grantham after a horrific ankle injury saw him sidelined for over three months last year.

Grantham was not called up for the return leg against Ethiopia in South Africa, but he is very much on Safa’s radar.

The road to becoming a professional is a difficult one to negotiate regardless of the sport, but Trey Grantham appears to be moving in the right direction.

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