Bigger and better too

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

Shona Khona started small and almost humbly as an education through sport initiative in 2005. But this week it grew into a national soccer talent search programme.

Initiated by Reckitt Benckiser and Metro Cash and Carry to fulfil the wildest dreams of hundreds of aspirant young soccer stars, Shona Khona has so far held four national soccer coaching and life skills development camps.

About 360 youngsters took part in the camps at the Safa and Transnet Sports School of Excellence in Elandsfontein, Ekurhuleni. And of these, 24 recruits attended week-long advanced soccer coaching and life skills development camps at the Sao Paulo Football Club's soccer academy in Sao Paulo in Brazil in 2006 and 2007.

Tyroane Sandows and Thabiso Makena, who won in 2005, were invited back to Sao Paulo. Sandows is completing his first year there and is expected to stay on for another two to three years. His parents will visit him next year.

Another recruit, Sifiso Mnguni, is serving a three-year contract in the junior ranks of Absa Premier Soccer League club Platinum Stars.

Now for the big news. Shona Khona's media partners, the SABC, Sowetan and the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation, welcomed on board new sponsors and partners AIG, the international insurance company, Mamelodi Sundowns, Imperial, the car hire company and Forward Zone, an international sports agency. This means that:

l Shona Khona will serve as a sophisticated feeder programme for Mamelodi Sundowns, other professional soccer outfits and soccer academies;

l AIG will ensure that Manchester United's coaching expertise and youth development philosophy system and work rubs off on Shona Khona coaches and recruits;

l With Imperial on board, there will be no transport headaches;

l Forward Zone will take the extra tab to cover events in Sao Paulo.

Although a lucky-number draw still forms part of the entry mechanism, youngsters who make the grade will now be sent to training camps closest to their cities or towns instead of being transported to Gauteng for two separate camps.

With the help of Safa, and led by Safa-appointed coaches and selected soccer legends managing the camps, Shona Khona will visit different communities in 20 different locations across the country.

These camps, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday December 8 and December 9, are expected to attract more than 800 enthusiastic youngsters aged between 10 and 16.

About 20 lucky recruits are expected to attend the national camp around the middle of next year.