Memorable visit to Manchester

Thandukwazi Gcabashe

Thandukwazi Gcabashe

Six future soccer superstars have returned from a momentous visit to British Premier League champions Manchester United.

This thanks to the education through sport initiative, Shona Khona, which is generated by the nation-building partnership featuring originators Reckitt Benckiser, fellow sponsors Metro Cash and Carry, and additional sponsors AIG, ImperialEuropCar, Mamelodi Sundowns, ForwardZone, SABC and Sowetan.

They are:

lPhakiso Ratsiu, 14, of Kagiso, Gauteng;

lLyle Johnson, 13, of Kimberley, Northern Cape;

lZenande Sibali, 14, of Butterworth, Eastern Cape;

lMogorosi Mmethi, 14, of Mafikeng, North West;

lJulian de Freitus, 14, of Illovo, Gauteng;

The "super six" were selected for the week-long tour after winning one of the hotly contested places at the Shona Khona football and life skills camp in Johannesburg last month.

After touching down at OR Tambo International Airport, coach Sammy Thage, who accompanied the aspirants, said: "The boys gained a wealth of experience at Manchester United's soccer school and now they have to practise hard and share with their homeboys what they learnt abroad."

Mmethi said: "As a central defender I have learned a lot in the past week, including how to guide an opponent before I tackle, and trusting my instant and long-term decisions on and off the pitch."

Samkelo Qwabe, who was originally selected as a member of the "super six", was unable to travel because of a bureaucratic complication with his passport. He was replaced by Ratsiu.

Arrangements are already in place for him to join the 2009 Shona Khona tour to the Sao Paulo Futebol Academy in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Shona Khona project coordinator Stan Whiting said: "It was such a disappointment that the young Qwabe - who is an excellent player - could not make the trip because his passport didn't come through in time, but he is definitely going on the next international trip."

While the boys were in the UK they were treated to one of the first games of the new English Premier League season between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford. The score was 1-1. - Additional reporting by Victor Mecoamere