The football pitch battle lines have been drawn as an agile 2018 Nedbank Ke Yona Team are set to go against recent Nedbank Cup Champions Free State Stars in a spectacular showdown of experience and talent.
The Ke Yona Team rookies will go head to head with the Premier Soccer League (PSL) veterans in the annual Nedbank Ke Yona Challenge. The much-anticipated game will be played at the Makhulong Stadium, Tembisa on the 9th of September with kick-off scheduled for 3pm.
During last year’s Nedbank Ke Yona Team Challenge, the professional football aspirants made history by scoring the team’s first ever goal in open play against two time Nedbank Cup Champion Supersport United, courtesy of graduate striker Zanoxolo Mduli.
The 2018 team have ambitions of making a history of their own, with their sights set on beating a well-experienced Ea Lla Koto side. The team selectors Khabo Zondo and Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba together with their technical staff have been hard at work, preparing the excited group of youngsters physically, mentally and tactically for the showdown against the seasoned Free State Stars.
Speaking at the match day state of readiness press conference held at the Nedbank Head Office on Tuesday, team selector Khabo Zondo acknowledged that the game will be tough, but remained adamant that they had done enough to match Ea Lla Koto pound for pound.
“The current Free State Stars team has physically strong and hard tackling, experienced players such as Mahamutsa and Masehe who solidify the team’s rigid defence. We know from experience that it is never easy for a team of amateur players to go against a top professional outfit of Free State Stars’ calibre. Our biggest concern has always been player fitness and this is an aspect that we constantly had to work on as the Ke Yona Team will need to last a full 90 minutes and match the pace of their senior counterparts, a first-time experience for most of the players. We believe that we have put a lot of training hours into preparing the team well ahead of the Challenge,” said Zondo.
“We had only a few months to work on the various aspects of the game, however, we ensured that we pay attention to each player’s individual talent, skills and abilities, with hopes of making the young lads better players long after the Ke Yona Programme has come to an end.
“We look at the likes of 2017 Eastern Cape Motherwell born Ke Yona graduate and Bloemfontein Celtic midfielder Bongani Sam, who is a direct result of the Ke Yona Team Search and we marvel at how he is making use of the opportunity that the platform has provided him. Sam has managed to score his first PSL goal against Orlando Pirates as well as win a man of the match award when his team played against Kaizer Chiefs on the 29th of August. This is what we want to see as the end result of our combined labour as both selectors and players,” added Mashaba.
The Ke Yona Team has over the years played against Nedbank Cup Champions Kaizer Chiefs in 2013, Orlando Pirates in 2014, Mamelodi Sundowns in 2015 and consecutively played SuperSport United in 2016 and 2017 after Matsatsantsa were crowned victors in both years. The 2018 Nedbank Cup Ke Yona Challenge will be a first-time experience for Free State Stars after the club claimed full honours against Maritzburg United in a 1-0 win during the Nedbank Cup Final earlier this year.
On the importance of the Ke Yona Team Search, Free State Stars Assistant coach Selaotse Mosala said: “The Ke Yona Team Search has produced some remarkable talent throughout the past few years. Look at Bongani Mbuli, for instance; he is a good youngster who is training very well and works very hard. He needs some time to adapt to the PSL and to improve tactically, as well as adapt to the speed of our training. He is strong and quite quick for a centre-back, but at the moment we need more experience in matches. For him it is a matter of being coached properly and we are working very hard on that with him. He now has a contract in the PSL, but sometimes you still need extra training. Not in terms of fitness, but about being more accurate and precise in what you do.
“We wish the Ke Yona Team good luck for Sunday’s match, we hope that more stars can come from the banks football development programme,” concluded Mosala.
The Nedbank Ke Yona Challenge will be broadcast on SABC 1 and Supersport Channel 204; with build-up starting at 2.30pm and kick-off scheduled for 3pm.
“Suited for each” other hitmaker Shekinah will be performing LIVE at Makhulong stadium before the match kicks off.
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