Prolific young striker now in Portugal

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Ezio Panelatti (16) in action for the Portuguese side Estoril Praia. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Another young, local footballer has found his feet on the shores of Portugal. 16-year-old Ezio Panelatti has signed a contract with Portuguese club Estoril Praia’s academy, and has taken the next step in his footballing journey.

The young striker has followed in the footsteps of several South African footballers who have made their way to Portugal, including Cape Town City coach Eric Tinkler, the English Premier League side Burnley’s Lyle Foster, and most notably, the legendary Bafana Bafana striker Benni McCarthy.

“Estoril Praia’s youth development programme is one of the best in Europe,” explained Panelatti.

“Playing in Europe has allowed me the opportunity to play in official FIFAregistered matches and allows me to play matches at a higher level,” he elaborated.

His recent move to the LIGA Portugal side has come with new challenges for him to overcome, but Panelatti is committed to making his mark on the game. “Moving to a European club is quite different,” said Panelatti, “I have been focusing on understanding the way of European football as well as understanding the language.”

While only 16, the striker dreams of climbing the ranks in Portuguese football rapidly, saying: “The short-term plan is to be signed by the under-23 Estoril squad, my long-term is to be called up for the national team.”

Learning from past experiences, Panelatti said what keeps him going is the motivation to play at a higher level while remembering that he is only as good as the opponents he faces.

A piece of advice he holds close to his heart is: “Stay focused, work hard, and never stop believing in yourself.”

This advice has clearly served him well, and Estoril Praia now have a gem from Bloemfontein on their hands.

Warren Hawkins

warren@mahareng.co.za