Zealous Zane eyes Shona Khona prize

Thandukwazi Gcabashe

Shona Khona is now following South Africa's future soccer superstars to their homes.

The education-through-sport initiative of Reckitt Benckiser and Metro Cash and Carry is supported by Premier Soccer League club Mamelodi Sundowns, Manchester United sponsors AIG, sports management and events company ForwardZone and Sowetan - for the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.

In December 2007, regional camps were held in 20 locations across the country. Phakiso Motshabaesi, who was born in Kagiso, Randfontein, was one of the aspirants who showed great potential .

The young maestro who auditioned in Meadowlands in Soweto, set the pace with his fine ball control.

Motshabaesi's flair impressed Moroka Swallows veteran midfielder and Shona Khona soccer legend Nobel Maja and his assistant, Safa coach Bongani "Kappa" Nhlapho. They were so impressed that they made the boy Motshabaesi the trials' sole qualifier.

Both coaches had nothing but praise for Motshabaesi, 14, the former captain of the now defunct Inner City, which he led to league honours during the 2006 season. He was also the second leading goal scorer, with 12 goals.

"The boy is a versatile player. He has different skills, good trapping and movement and he crosses well. He can do anything with the ball," Nhlapo said.

Zane, as Motshabaesi is affectionately known, is a shy and reserved youngster who likes to spend his time listening to house and gospel music.

"I don't like fighting and ill-treating people. I love keeping the peace at all times," he said.

Youths aged between 10 and 16 can enter through proof-of-purchase of household products made by Reckitt Benckiser, then SMS the lucky number found on the packaging to the hotline. Lucky youngsters whose numbers are drawn are allocated to a training camp closest to their city or town.

Project coordinator Stan Whiting said: "This way, irrespective of talent, kids get a chance to show off their skills, learn soccer and life skills and rub shoulders with soccer legends and their peers in a safe and healthy environment."

In the past two years, Shona Khona has taken 24 talented youngsters to the Sao Paulo Futebol Academy in Brazil for a week of soccer training.

One of them, Tyroane Sandows, was asked to return for further training and academic development. He is currently playing for the under-12 Sao Paulo Futebol Club.

Five other boys were accepted and are currently enrolled at the Safa Transnet Sports of Excellence through Shona Khona.

Sifiso Mnguni, who was discovered at the very first Shona Khona training camp, signed a three-year professional contract with Platinum Stars development team in November 2007.

With such success stories, Motshabaesi also wants in.

"I'm going to come with magic, and great skills because I want to travel overseas and learn more from famous players."

Staying fit is Motshabaesi's primary objective, and his older brother Sabata has promised to keep the starry-eyed teenager fit until the national Shona Khona camp is held in May.

"I am so excited. I'm over the moon. My little brother has been trying all over and finally he got it," said an overjoyed Sabata.