Shona Khona hopefuls will hone soccer skills abroad

Happiness is realising a sure path towards one of your goals.

Happiness is realising a sure path towards one of your goals.

In the case of six young soccer- mad youths, it is a chance to play soccer at one of the world's most famous soccer academies.

They are due to attend intensive soccer training at the Sao Paulo FC Soccer Academy in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in July.

They are Dominic Mfusi from Krugersdorp in Gauteng; Moalusi Mathe from Thabanchu in the Free State; Bongani Mocksin and Lwando Bhebhetha from Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape; Jerry Nkwana from Mamelodi, Gauteng; and Mzwandile Magqwaka from Gugulethu in the Western Cape.

What's more, Nkwana was also offered a place at the Safa Transnet School of Excellence after his sterling performance at the Shona Khona weekend.

Their good fortune is all thanks to Sowetan, SABC, Metcash and Reckitt Benckiser, sponsors of an ambitious education- through-sport programme that is steadily unearthing future stars who will one day help rescue soccer in the country from its current quagmire.

In July last year, Shona Khona, which is in its second year, took 12 children to Sao Paulo.

Of these, Sifiso Mnguni is due to join Premiership side Silver Stars, and two others - Thabiso Makena and Tyroane Sandows - have been invited back to Brazil for further training.

Shona Khona works in a simple, unbiased fashion. Children and their parents purchase specially-marked Reckitt Benckiser products at Metcash and Metcash-friendly stores.

On these products are entry grids for children wishing to be chosen for special Shona Khona camps in December and April. They send their names, addresses and other particulars to the organisers, who then choose 180 entrants at random, out of thousands of hopefuls throughout South Africa.

Then soccer coaches, including Dan Malesela, Bernard Lushozi, Mandla Mazibuko, James Mabena and Marks Maponyane, give soccer coaching and life-skills development lessons to 180 at two camps of 90 each, one in December and the other in April, at the Safa-Transnet Soccer School of Excellence in Ekurhuleni.

Six kids from each separate camp who impress are chosen by the coaches to undergo further training at Sao Paulo.

"For some, just being at the camp is enough. For others, it is the start of something much bigger, something many kids dream about," Maponyane, technical coordinator for Shona Khona, said.

An eventful time awaits Mfusi, Mathe, Mocksin, Bhebhetha, Nkwana and Magqwaka and the other six youths who are due to be selected in April.

On arrival, they will be sent for medical checks by the club's surgeons. Then will follow incorporation into the induction training session, comprising a lengthy warm-up and a series of short matches played on a three-quarter sized field.

This induction training session is due to be attended by all of the club's head coaches, including the chief scout, who seems to have had an influence in the choice of Sandows and Makena's invitation back to Sao Paulo.

Shona Khona's recruits for the new year will also attend further training for the rest of the week, expected to be a combination of coordination exercises, short matches and training drills involving passing and shooting skills.