All over South Africa, there are millions of young football fans who watch their favourite players on TV and try to emulate their signature moves on school grounds, in their back yard, and even on the streets. They dream of running onto the pitch with the likes of like Eden Hazard, Victor Moses and Cesc Fàbregas, playing for their favourite football club and scoring goals when it matters most.
As a firm favourite among athletes of all sports, Shield understands how passionate football fans are and in partnership with Chelsea Football Club, Shield launched the Sbonis‘iDiski campaign in May this year to unearth talented footballers from across South Africa.
Hosting nationwide trials, led by Siphiwe Mkhonza, former Bafana Bafana defender and football analyst on SABC Soccer Zone, Shield scouted South Africa to find players who have dedicated their lives to this beautiful game. These players demonstrated technical skill, speed and agility, controlled footwork, strong defence skills and overall dedication to the game.
Trials commenced in August 2017 in Pretoria and subsequently moved on to Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban and Johannesburg. The best 5 players have been chosen from each region by the local coaches – as well as a lucky wild card winner – to form the final 26 players.
“These final footballers have come through the ranks and it’s this type of dedication that inspires Shield and embodies the spirt of the brand. These players lived up to the challenge, demonstrating their passion and commitment to the game as they all fought to secure their spot in the finals,” explains coach Siphiwe Mkhonza. “It is now up to the Chelsea coaches to select the player that has the skill required to participate at a professional level.”
“The finals week will see aspiring athletes with a huge passion for football demonstrate their ability for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train with the world-famous Chelsea Football Club,” explains Gareth Marshall, Senior Brand Manager of Shield South Africa. “We are so honoured to offer this experience to these talented group of players. Our hope and aim here is to empower these players to move up the ranks and to give them the skills which will help them see some of their goals and dreams become a reality!”
“We are delighted to welcome the Chelsea coaches to South Africa. Chelsea FC comes with years of experience and have coached clinics around the world. Now we will be bringing their expertise and knowledge to South Africa,” adds Marshall.
Finals week will be supported by Football Development Officers from the Chelsea Foundation, Steve Winnett, Christopher Woodward and Russell Banyard, who have tailored and developed a training and skills development programme that exemplifies Chelsea FC’s football philosophy. This training programme will focus on on-field training, skills and technique development, training theory, nutrition, strength and conditioning, drills by skill (dribbling, tackling, passing, shooting etc.) and what it takes to succeed and perform at professional levels.
“We’re very much looking forward to arriving in South Africa to work with some of the country’s best young footballers,” explained Steve Winnett, Chelsea Foundation Football Development Officer. “We plan to work with the finalists on every aspect of the game and even the best players amongst them are going to find the week a real challenge. But we know that there is going to be some amazing talent on show and picking a winner from the 26 finalists is going to be very tough”.
“This partnership with Shield will provide an amazing opportunity for aspiring footballers in South Africa,’ said Ian Woodroffe, International Development Manager of the Chelsea Foundation.
“We know the country holds many players with a huge passion for football and this competition gives them the chance to demonstrate their passion and ability. The Chelsea Foundation works hard to improve the lives of young people all over the world and we look forward to extending our work in South Africa.”
“When we first embarked on this journey we had no idea the level of talent we would uncover. The aim of this project is to develop football at grass root levels, giving South African footballers the chance to change their lives. As we have progressed we see that it’s about so much more. For the first time we realised that through our partnership with Chelsea we have what it takes to empower these aspiring footballers to make the right moves,” concludes Marshall.