The Burger King-sponsored South African Men’s U20 National Team arrived in Suwon, Korea Republic last night to continue preparations for the upcoming FIFA U20 World Cup, scheduled for 20 May 2017 – 11 June 2017.
After a night of good rest SAFA Media took some time out to speak to a player whose life has changed for the better in 2017.
Sandile Mthethwa, a product of the KZN Academy has become a vital part of the Amajita back line. Mthethwa, who participated in the 2017 CAF U20 African Nations helped South Africa qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup and is in the 21-man squad that is currently in Korea Republic.
Namhla Mphelo: Sandile, thank you for time. I trust you have managed to get some rest after the long travel from South Africa….
Sandile Mthethwa: Yes, I managed to get some rest and I am glad we arrived safely. I am overwhelmed by the difference I have seen here already, especially the time difference.
NM: You have had such an amazing journey in your career – where are you from, where did the love of the game come from?
SM: I was born in Ngwelezane, a township in Empangeni, which is in northern KwaZulu Natal. I have three siblings, and it was my late brother that introduced me to football. I started playing at the age of eight years. The first junior team I played for was Shooting Stars FC, and this is where development begun for me.
In 2011 when I was 14 years old, I played for Flamingo FC, a club in the SAB League. Then in 2013, when I was in grade 12, I was selected to join the KZN Academy through provincial trials. I played for Durban FC which was part of the KZN Academy and we participated in the Durban U19 International Tournament. I was then invited to the Portuguese outfit Maritimo.
I believe I impressed the Maritimo management because they made me a deal – that I would have signed in February 2015, however, I chose to sign with Orlando Pirates in January 2015. Two years later (2017) I was selected by coach Thabo Senong to the u20 National Team and by the grace of the Almighty, I played in the CAF U20 AFCON in Zambia earlier this year. Now I am about to take part in the FIFA U20 World Cup.
NM: That is quite amazing. So what was your first reaction when you received your first call up to the National Team?
SM: My first call up was in February for the CAF U20 AFCON and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it because I had not played that many games for Orlando Pirates. But I was very excited and nervous at the same time – I questioned so many things, such as why me, am I that good, what if this and that. When I got to camp for the first time I was still very much in my shell, but there were players I knew in the squad and they welcomed me with warm arms. Now I am comfortable with everyone in the team and I can easily express myself.
NM: Five caps for Amajita so far since February, that’s a great achievement. How do you feel about that and being in the World Cup squad as well?
SM: I do not have the word to express my gratitude, but I believe I can still earn more caps than this. It has always been my dream to represent my country since I was still playing in the SAB League. All this happened by the grace of God, hard work and the support from my family. Being in the 21 men squad for the FIFA U20 World Cup is a great honour and I’m looking forward to helping the team go further in the tournament.
NM: Talk to us about your team mates, what do you think you bring to the Amajita set up (on and off the pitch)? What are your best characteristics (on and off the pitch)?
SM: I believe I am good at motivating my teammates on and off the pitch; I am also good at leading the back line because I am very vocal. Off the pitch I love cracking jokes, I love imitating people’s voices and singing is one of my best characteristics.
NM: What do you hope to achieve in the world cup and immediately afterwards?
SM: My first objective is to help the team get the best results in every match. As the defense we will have to be very solid in our department because if we don’t let in any goals, then we stand a better chance of winning matches. My achievements will come after I’ve represented my country but I’ll be happy if maybe one of the teams overseas see the potential that I have and give me a chance to showcase my talent.
NM: Sandile, thank you for your time. All the best in the tournament.
SM: Thank you, I am ready to make the country proud and help the team achieve the objectives of the tournament.