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The Elite 16 Take Their Skills To The NXT LVL!

The Elite 16 Take Their Skills To The NXT LVL!

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by Soccer Laduma

Oct 13, 2016 02:13 PM

Tags: Vodacom Development

The Boot Camp has come to an end. All of the aspiring young footballers were first put through their paces by legends of the South African football fraternity and then trimmed down to a group of 32. Then team Lucas Radebe battled it out against Team Mark Fish, a game which proved to be a fierce encounter as the teams – consisting of both male and female footballers – fought it out for the coveted prize. Eventually Team Fish claimed the Vodacom NXT LVL title, with his charges winning scholarships to the Tuks Sports High School and a chance to turn their dreams into a reality.

How the top 32 were chosen…

The 100 players who attended the Vodacom NXT LVL Boot Camp, accompanied by legends Mark Fish and Lucas Radebe, were chosen from the 1000 entries received by Vodacom. These 100 players were then faced with a variety of challenges on the field of play and were thoroughly tested by the coaches, after which the group was cut down to 32 young stars who’d faced all the trials thrown at them head-on.

Team Radebe speaks out…

Despite Team Radebe’s narrow loss in the final, Kirsten Santillan - a player on the losing side - had only positive things to say about the Vodacom NXT LVL experience.

“I would definitely say it was a great experience. I learned so much from all the top coaches. I might not have walked away as a winner, but at the end of the day we are all winners because of the experience we gained from our legendary coaches. Mark Fish’s team was better at the end of the day. They were very quick on the ball and they were also confident. We tried our best, but it was just unfortunate.”

A word from the winners…

Fifteen-year-old Mathuane Duwy Selotola was named the Man of the Match for Sunday’s encounter, when his team, mentored by Mark Fish, walked away with a bursary by beating Team Radebe 2–1.

“It felt good to be named the Man of the Match. It wasn’t an easy game, but we believed in ourselves that we could win the game. We fought as a team until the last whistle. My dad even came to support me. He had tears in his eyes… tears of Joy. They say a man doesn’t cry, but a happy man who is proud of his kids does. I had an emotional evening. All thanks to God! 

The coaches always encouraged us to never give up during the match. Portia Modise always pushed me to my limit. She believes in me and I couldn’t disappoint her or myself. It wasn’t easy, as most of the Radebe team players were older than us. They had the power and energy, so we had to outthink them… play with them mentally. The coaches gave us the brains, which led us to this victory.

I’m very grateful for what Vodacom has offered to us. Now I know I have a bursary, it will help me a lot with school and my football career. What I have learned today is that hard work truly pays off. From now on I’m going to work hard for anything I want.”

A lesson for all young footballers…

Soccer Laduma also spoke to former Bafana Bafana defender and Vodacom NXT LVL winning coach Mark Fish, who was an instrumental figure as he guided the aspiring footballers and led his 16 players to a sports bursary.

“We started off with 100 kids on the Sunday, halved between Lucas and myself. From the Monday, we got the kids playing in encounters, especially in eleven-a-sides just to see who we were going to cut, because on the Thursday we had to send home a group of 68. We were then left with 32 players – I chose my 16 and so did Lucas with his team. With the chosen players, we all knew that they could play football, but now they had to show if they understood the tactics. We, as the coaches, had to make sure that they were aware of their positional play and how they should play in an 11-a-side match. We had our eyes on one of the goalkeepers, who grew with confidence, and it was noticeable as his keeping was incredible. He listened very well to all the coaching that we gave and it did wonders for him. That should be a lesson for all young footballers who want to improve in their game.”

They had to be physically strong

“Preparing for the game, our formation was always going to be a 4-4-2 setup, with one of the strikers playing just behind the other striker. That was our plan every day during our training together while practicing our set-pieces. We had to make sure that they were physically strong and that they could challenge for the ball during the game. We gave them the guidelines on how to play a football match and it was up to them to perform because they knew what lay ahead for them and for their futures, which is exactly what my team did. They took all the mentoring and got the result they wanted.”

At first I wasn’t fully impressed…

“The talent was great and I know that there are many others out there who are still looking for opportunities like the Vodacom NXT LVL campaign because they can’t move to the bigger cities to get a trial at the well-known clubs. I must be honest, when I first saw the videos, I wasn’t fully impressed but over time it got much better. Through Vodacom, we have found a way of uncovering new talent.”

Education is important

“Now the hard work starts for them! They have been through the training and now they will be getting an education. They have the surroundings to help shape their careers. Also knowing that they can get an education for life after football is really important, but it’s up to them to make the best of the opportunity which has been handed to them.”

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