Big opportunity for SA teens

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Nike Academy

St George's Park, Burton-Upon Trent – It's a big day for Kurt Pienaar and Waylan Rooi, arguably the biggest of their amateur football careers.

Tonight (8pm UK time), at the Nike Chance global trials in England, the youngsters from South Africa will get to know if they will sign contracts with the Nike Academy in England, where most of the previous winners of The Chance play their football.

Just over 40 under-20 players from around the world arrived for the The Chance global trials on Friday, including South Africa's Rooi and his mate Pienaar, looking to impress head coach Jimmy Gilligan, who is a former Cardiff City, Portsmouth and Swansea City player.

Rooi and Pienaar made it this far after impressing at the The Chance Africa trials in Soweto last month, and if they are chosen as winners at the global finals, they will join the Nike Academy, where they will be offered the opportunity to play against UK opposition and maybe get spotted by scouts or agents.

It's nerve wracking stuff, waiting for the announcement to be made, but Rooi and Pienaar have done pretty well since they arrived here for the global trials and they seem quite confident that they can sign for the Nike Academy

"I am looking forward to the announcement, but I am also very nervous. It's a big moment for me and we will see what happens, but I feel I could have done more," 19 year old Pienaar said on Saturday.

Rooi said: "It's a big day day for us. The competition is tough, but I like the challenge. Making it through would change my life. There is a possibility that I could sign a professional contract. It would make my family really proud, so I think it would make a difference."

The boys have gone through some tests throughout the weekend, as the coaches worked on their ball control, first touch, passing, positioning and many other aspects of their game.

They have also spent time with Aston Villa striker Cristian Benteke, who played a few games with the boys in the players' lounge at St George's Park on Saturday before giving them some words of encouragement.

"This is a big chance for the players and they must use this opportunity," the Belgian marksman told the media.

Samy Loukab and Sid-Ali Touili from Algeria are also representing Africa at the global finals. Loukab, who plays a lot like Spain's David Silva and Juan Mata, has enjoyed himself and has a good chance of making the cut.


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