Soccer trip to Brazil leaves cherished memories

Kwanele Msibi

Kwanele Msibi

My Shona Khona experience start-ed on a bad, embarrassing note.

I went to the wrong place for the first camp because I did not know the actual location of the Safa-Transnet Soccer School of Excellence.

Shona Khona works in a simple way. You enter for selection to two separate camps by buying specially marked Reckitt Benckiser products, including Dettol, on which there are contact details for entrants to send their names and addresses by SMS or post.

I was one of 180 school children - aged between 10 and 16 - from all over South Africa who attended camps in December last year and in April at the school of excellence in Elandsfontein, Ekurhuleni.

On arrival at the camp we were given new soccer boots, soccer playing clothes, a kitbag and then ushered to our rooms. I shared mine with a short guy I only knew as Tumiso, who assured me that we were going to enjoy being together. He was a friendly roommate with a sense of humour.

On the second day we met several interesting soccer coaches including former professional players Marks Maponyane, Dan Malesela, Mandla Mazibuko, Stan Whiting, James Mabena and Bernard Lushozi.

I was greatly inspired by Maponyane's motivational remarks.

After rigorous soccer coaching, practice sessions and life-skills workshops we were told the names of six lucky players who would join six others from a similar camp on a trip to Brazil for further soccer coaching and life-skills development.

I was one of them. I was excited. The knowledge that I would fly on an airplane for the first time in my life, and go to a different country far away from my own home, city and country made me very happy. I was also impatient. So much so that I felt like growing wings.

It was scary on the long flight. We slept, woke up, and then slept again, before finally arriving in a foreign land. Once in Brazil, I enjoyed my soccer.

My memories are many, and full of the gruelling, but educational morning and afternoon practice sessions with Brazilian soccer players from the junior teams of the famous Sao Paulo Football Club in Sao Paulo.

Playing computer games and shopping at Sao Paulo's malls is a memory worth cherishing. The time spent on the beach is also unforgettable. It was great fun.

I learnt lots of things. My soccer- playing skills and determination have improved. I am going to be a star one day. All my idols started somewhere, like me with Shona Kona.

lThe author is a recruit of Shona Khona, a popular education-through-sport programme aimed at inspiring soccer-loving youth to make academic development a part of their lives, so that they have something to fall back on when their soccer legs no longer carry them. Its partners are Sowetan, SABC, Reckitt Benckiser and Metcash.