The two Free State aspiring football stars in this year’s Nedbank Ke Yona team of 18 players are hoping their dreams of breaking into the big leagues become possible. The pair is Thabo Mpholo (23) from Welkom and Vuyisile Ndledjana from Zastron. The other duo of Katleho Molakeng (23) from Bloemfontein and Thapelo Kibe (23) from Welkom did not make it into the squad. The 18 players were selected during a live draw conducted on Thursday (10/8) in Johannesburg at the headquarters of sponsor Nedbank. Those in the Ke Yona team were drawn from a pool of 23 players who attended boot camps under coaches Shakes Mashaba, Mika Mangena, Owen Da Gama and Khabo Zondo. The Ke Yona team selection was a culmination of months of talent searching by the quartet of Da Gama, Mashaba, Zondo and Mangena. The mentors assessed over 13 000 aspiring stars who showed up to try to make it into the 18-man squad. As ambassadors of the sponsor, the 18 players will have their football talent tested against double Nedbank Cup champions SuperSport United on 3 September. The supercharged fixture will afford the young lads the opportunity to continue their journey to stardom. The journey of the 18 young warriors involves a month-long assessment at their chosen 16 clubs in the Premier Soccer League (PSL). This gives all of them another chance to realise their dreams by impressing the coaches of the respective clubs and ultimately securing professional contracts. Ndledjana will undergo gruelling assessments at the hands of current Premiership champions Bidvest Wits and Mpholo at the hands of returnee AmaZulu. Being in the Ke Yona team is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realise the dream to make into South Africa’s big leagues. Both Mpholo and Ndledjana are jubilant about being in the team, committing to seizing the opportunity to launch their individual careers to stardom. Ndledjana was the last player to make it into the team. “Every one of us, including the five that fall out, is hungry for this chance. It is my wish to make it into the big league and become the second player from Zastron to play professional soccer after Luvuyolwethu Mpeta currently playing for Platinum Stars,” said Ndledjana.Mashaba believes the basic football skills acquired by the 18 Ke Yona team stars at the gruelling boot camps will stand the players in good stead during their assessment. “We need the players to adapt. To start now, when the clubs begin their campaign, is the best time. They get to know how things are done at clubs and what is expected of them,” he said. Those who will make the after-assessment trials will follow in the footsteps of over 20 players who have carved out promising careers at a number of PSL and NFD clubs, like Maphosa Modiba (SuperSport United), Thamsanqa Gwabeni (Platinum Stars), Luthando Sixhaso (Kaizer Chiefs), Ian Chikowa and Kyle Davies (University of Pretoria). They realised their dreams through the Nedbank initiative.Tutu Skosana, Nedbank sponsorship manager for football, said football is a lot like managing your finances. You must have a goal, be committed, work hard to attain it and find the right team to enable you to realize that goal. “Congratulations to the 18 future stars who have made it into the team.” He said their goal as sponsor is to keep the talent initiative as the benchmark of talent identification and changing lives.