'Being an Olympian is big' - Tercious Malepe

SA Under-23 skipper Tercious Malepe. /Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images
SA Under-23 skipper Tercious Malepe. /Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images

SA Under-23 skipper Tercious Malepe has used Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and Brazil legend Ronaldinho as his case study to magnify the role played by the Olympics Games in moulding players.

Messi, 21 at the time, inspired Argentina to Olympics triumph in Beijing, China, in 2008. Meanwhile, in 2000, a 20-year-old Ronaldinho participated in this global spectacle in Sydney, Australia.

However, his Brazil were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Cameroon, who went on to win the tournament.

In trying to motivate his teammates about the importance of playing at the Olympics, Malepe, who was part of coach Owen da Gama's squad at the 2016 edition in Rio, Brazil, utilised Messi and Ronaldinho as his main point of reference.

"As a team, we have a dream of going to the Olympics. Being an Olympian is huge. The likes of Ronaldinho and Messi played at the Olympics and never took it lightly, look where they are today," said Malepe.

"I have been sharing my previous Olympics experience with the guys, the likes of Luther Singh . they've been to the U-20 World Cup, they see this as an opportunity to showcase their talent to the world."

As much as Malepe is pumped-up about the prospect of going to his second Olympics in a row, the versatile midfielder knows their road to Tokyo must start by qualifying for the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

South Africa faces Zimbabwe in the first leg of the final round of the qualifiers at Orlando Stadium on Friday (7pm). The second leg is set for Bulawayo next Tuesday.

"We have a huge task that is ahead of us. Everybody looked very sharp in our first training session [at Marks Park Sports Club in Randburg yesterday] and the boys are driven to push for a winning result in both legs against Zimbabwe," said Malepe.

This youth Afcon will be hosted by Egypt from November 8 to 22.

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