Big break for Meko

2015-08-26 06:00
PLAY MASTER: Thabo Meko in action during the Nedbank Ke Yona Talent Search bootcamp at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria. 

Samuel Shivambu

PLAY MASTER: Thabo Meko in action during the Nedbank Ke Yona Talent Search bootcamp at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria. Photo: Samuel Shivambu

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THE opportunity

to realise the dream of playing professional soccer beckons to Thabo Meko with his inclusion in this year’s Nedbank Ke Yona team. The utility player is in the 18-man squad chosen to face Mamelodi Sundowns, the reigning Nedbank Cup champion.

The squad, whith players between 18 and 25 years, was chosen by prominent coaches Owen Da Gama, Khabo Zondo, Mike Mangena and Bafana Bafana’s head coach, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba.

The Ke Yona Team returns to the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria on Thursday (27/08) to sharpen their skills for the highly-anticipated match against Mamelodi Sundowns at the Lucas “Masterpieces” Moripe Stadium in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, on 6 September. Meko’s inclusion rewards his consistent performance since day one of the talent search. He was selected at trials held in Bloemfontein in April after impressing talent-scout coaches, who include Mashaba.

Meko continued impressing during an intense boot camp at the High-Performance Centre in Pretoria where they were trained and conditioned by the best sports scientists, while working closely with the four selecting coaches.

He was chosen together with another 17 players out of an aspiring 48 players scouted during trials conducted in six provinces – Mpumalanga, the Free State, the Eastern Cape, the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Another Free Stater who made the team is Jeraard Meyer from Bloemfontein.

Meko believes this is an opportunity to realise his childhood dream of playing professional soccer.

He says a perfect platform to showcase his talent was at his former team Dinonyana FC, a Welkom-based team campaigning in the ABC Motsepe League, a second-tier division, under the auspices of the South African Football Association (Safa) in the Free State.

He currently plays for Bloemfontein Young Tigers.

“I have been very nervous throughout the series of trials. The announcement came as a shock; to have made it into the final team. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” says an ecstatic Meko.

“There is more at stake – to be in the starting line-up to face Sundowns on 6 September, and ensure I give my best on the day. This is a great motivation and I have told myself I shall keep on keeping on.

“I drew inspiration from coach Mashaba’s sentiment, saying we go there to play Sundowns as ordinary people and should work to ensure we emerge and return as extraordinary people.”

The Welkom player believes being in this team opens the door for him to be spotted and follow in the footsteps of a former teammate, Mosa Lebusa, who plays for Premier Soccer League (PSL) outfit Ajax Cape Town. “The future looks bright and prayers are being answered. I’m looking beyond my current club, Bloemfontein Young Tigers. Determination, perseverance and discipline, as well as the support from my parents, have been the significant ingredients in my journey.”

He came close to realising the dream when current Kaizer Chiefs mentor Steve Komphela shortlisted him to join the Free State Stars in 2013. Meko was dealt a blow when Ea Lla Koto fired Komphela late in December 2013 – forcing him to continue life at former second-tier outfit Dinonyana where he had started his promising football career at the age of nine.

“Kgakala Tjabane, former coach of Dinonyana, taught me a lot. I graduated to the senior team and was captain for a long time, even after he had left in 2011.”

Meko left his former side to join Tigers at the beginning of the 2014-’15 season, settling well at the Mangaung-based outfit. “So far so good, I have experienced a big improvement since moving to Tigers. I believe it was a great move.”

Despite being unfortunate to not receive a PSL contract, Meko has proven soccer talent. He was previously selected for the Free State youth development squads – Metropolitan u.19 in 2008 and 2009, and in 2011 he was chosen for the SAB u.21 team

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