Sun Sep 24 03:30:30 CAT 2017

Amajita’s Margeman on a roller-coaster ride from the Cape Flats to the U-20 World Cup

By Marc Strydom | 2017-05-20 11:39:23.0

Grant Margeman has had to pinch himself a few times in the past six months on a roller-coaster ride from the Ajax Cape Town youth system to being a star first team performer‚ and now the Fifa Under-20 World Cup.

The 18-year-old from Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats‚ who is likely to start for Amajita in their opening World Cup game against Japan in Suwon‚ South Korea on Sunday morning‚ has done more than break into the first team at Ajax.

He has become a first team regular and key performer to the extent that coach Stanley Menzo has called Margeman the kingpin of his midfield.

“To be honest I never expected any of this to happen‚” Margeman admitted.

“I was never part of the U-20 SA team that was playing in qualifiers for the U-20 African Nations Cup (where Amajita finished fourth in March).

“But as soon as I got game time‚ getting a few minutes in the PSL‚ and then the coach (Menzo) told me I was becoming an important part of the team‚ I said‚ ‘Hey‚ there might be a chance I’ll play at the Nations Cup’‚ which I did.”

Teens like Margeman looking for that break into the big time often need a spark to ignite that tough transition.

For Margeman that came when he was part of the Ajax Under-19 team who won the prestigious NextGen Series in Amsterdam in March last year‚ beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the final.

That victory earmarked those U-19 players for first team duty. Margeman has made the biggest impact.

“That was the beginning of all this. Because I was playing against quality teams like Tottenham‚ PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona. You can match yourself against what level you are at‚” he said.

“Winning that tournament felt amazing. I told myself that‚ ‘Hey‚ I’m among some of the best young players‚ so let me now go out and stay humble‚ be disciplined‚ and show each coach what I’m made of’.

“It’s never easy breaking in as a youngster. But when the coach (Menzo) gave me my chance and put me in for a few games‚ I just told myself to take each one as a cup final.

“You never know‚ the coach might one day tell you you’re starting. The opportunity came against Bloemfontein Celtic (in December)‚ and I had a good game‚ and from there I just kept going.

“I think maybe what made the difference for me is that I’m always working hard‚ taking advice from the senior players like Nathan Paulse and Mark Mayambela.

“It makes me feel amazing as a young player being important to the team. The coach believes in the youngsters and is not scared to give them game time. Now I just want to pay the coach back.”

Amajita have been drawn with Asian champions Japan‚ South American champions Uruguay and European champions Italy in Group B in South Korea.

It’s a tough ask for the fourth-placed African team.

“I think it’s going to be a difficult group‚” Margeman admitted.

“It’s good going into the tournament as underdogs. We can maybe surprise teams with our exciting flair – the South African style of play.

“I think the first game is going to be the most important for us.”

South Africa meet Japan at Suwon World Cup Stadium at 5pm Korean time on Sunday‚ 10am SA time. The game will be televised on SuperSport 4.


- TMG Digital