Ball boys want chance for pictures with soccer stars

THE ball boys and flag bearers at the on-going World Cup quarterfinals are the envy of their peers.

THE ball boys and flag bearers at the on-going World Cup quarterfinals are the envy of their peers.

The youngsters will have something to brag about when schools reopen next month, because they have been part of history in the making.

The youngsters' only wish, though, is "if only they would allow us to get close to the soccer stars who are setting South African stadiums alight".

Teboho Mahoa, 16, and Thapelo Nkomo, 14, are ball boys while Nkululeko Nkosi, 15, and Sibongile Kone, 12, have been flag bearers since kickoff on June 11.

They are part of 1389 children from across the country involved in ball crew and flag crew duties.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but I wish we could get autographs or picture opportunities with the world stars," they said.

Sibongile, from Diepsloot, northern Johannesburg, said: "I felt very happy when I was selected but I was nervous. They told us that up to 85million people were going to watch us.

"But in the end I loved the whole experience."

She was lucky enough to be involved in the opening game in which South Africa squared off with Mexico in a one-all draw.

Her father entered her in the Coca-Cola competition.

"It was really interesting seeing all the people dancing, singing and having fun," Sibongile said.

Nkululeko, from Thokoza in Ekurhuleni, said: "A Premier Soccer League game was the only time I had been to a stadium before. That was a while back."

He was part of the flag crew when the US played Slovenia at Ellis Park Stadium on June 18.

"You cannot compare the two. It is not the same. The number of fans even made me feel nervous," Nkululeko said.

Teboho of Thembisa, Ekurhuleni said he had been to watch many matches at the stadium before "but this was different because it was an international game and I was on the field".

He performed his duty during the match between Ghana and Serbia at Loftus stadium in Pretoria.

The children had two training sessions on how to throw the ball before the World Cup kickoff.

"They showed us how to throw the ball to the players when they need it and to keep the game going," said Thapelo from Radiokop.

Complained Nkululeko: "But it makes me angry that we cannot get photos with the players or at least an autograph to prove that we were there."