Blanes, Spain… Just 75 km from the famous Nou Camp Stadium, home to footballing giants, Barcelona FC, and a far cry from the pitches of Heidedal’s Clive Solomon Stadium.
This is where three youngsters from Heidedal will be playing in the upcoming Copa Jordi International Youth Football Tournament, where the world’s best youth football players gather annually to show off their skills.
They hope to do enough here to catch the eye of some of the big-name scouts, and hopefully kickstart their own international footballing careers.
Zander Gatri (18), Eagan Vollenhoven (15) and Eagan van der Ross (17) attend Grey College in Bloemfontein. During their school’s recent Nedbank Grey College Soccer Tournament for under 19s the three performed well enough to be included in the 30-member South African squad for the Copa Jordi tournament.
The three all play for Heidedal’s Ocean XI Football Club. According to their coach, former Kaizer Chiefs and Bloemfontein Celtic player, Gary Goldstone, the boys all have what it takes to make it as professional footballers.
“One of the important things that stand out for me, is that they are good listeners,” Goldstone praised his young protegés. “We tend to live in a society where it’s hard to find youngsters who want to learn and listen. When you do find the few who want to learn and want to achieve, regardless of what we put them through… They have the desire to achieve and are willing to sacrifice. Each and every one of them, this is their dream and that stands out.”
It is impossible to miss the passion the boys have for the game and they are all determined to making a living off the sport.
“I’d like to play for Real Madrid or Man United,” Van der Ross laughs. “If I can’t, Chiefs or Pirates, because I believe I’m strong enough to play there, and I’m good enough to play there.”
Vollenhoven and Gatri have similar ideals, dreaming of playing for the mighty Barcelona Football Club and Kaizer Chiefs respectively.
At the moment, though, the three have more immediate challenges to face. They are currently in the middle of their respective year-end exams, while also facing a fund-raising drive in order to raise the money needed for their trip.
Each player must raise R75 000 to pay for their airfare, accommodation and other costs related to the trip.
They also have the weekly battle of finding a place to practise, as the scarcity of football pitches in Heidedal means several teams compete for use of the facilities.
But, they’re all still in agreement with Vollenhoven, who says, “We’re going to Spain to win and to show them Bloemfontein football. Nothing else.”
*The players are hosting a comedy showcase on 2 December at the Bloemfontein Civic Theatre to raise funds for their trip. For tickets, contact 082-844-4376. – Earl Coetzee