While many failed to make that grade, players such as Argentina’s Diego Maradona (1979 Fifa World Youth Championship), Lionel Messi (2005 edition) and Benni McCarthy (1997 edition) went on to dazzle the world while also achieving greatness in their respective careers.
While it’s an undeniable fact that South Africa hasn’t had that many exports who have done well abroad, both Darren Keet and Matthew Booth reckon that the current Under-20 squad (Amajita) that will represent South Africa in the upcoming Fifa Under-20 World Cup which kicks of this weekend (20 May – 11 June), do have what it takes to make a name for themselves and make the country proud.
Darren Keet – Class of 2009
“It was a great honour for me that I was selected to go and represent my country in the World Cup. I didn’t care whether it was with a junior national side or not, because in truth, not every player gets to be presented with that chance, to go and represent your country on the world stage.
“I truly believe that this current generation can achieve what we did (qualify for the round of 16) and possibly even more than we did, as long as they continue to believe in themselves.
“That’s all it takes really, you’ll have to believe that you are the best and the rest will fall into place. That’s what we did. Sure they are pitted in one of the toughest groups (Group D against Japan, Uruguay and Italy), but they do have what it takes to make it.
“If they do well in this tournament, I’m quite confident that they’ll go on to play for Bafana Bafana in the near future. If you look at that class which played in the 2009 edition, we have about seven or eight players who are still a part of the Bafana system. That’s the kind of impact this tournament can have in their respective lives, should they go out there and live it all out in the pitch.”
Matthew Booth – Class of 1997
“It was an educational experience for us, not only based on the travelling we experienced, but also by mixing with other cultures and learning their different ways of living. It was also a true honour for me to have led our Under-20 side in our debut appearance there.
“My only wish with this current group, is that Safa do everything in their power to keep them together up until the senior team level. “With us, the association had a six-year plan and that’s why most players didn’t even get to graduate to a senior level. Continuity is key in my view, and I believe this is one thing that we need to get right (in the near future).
“This (the current Amajita squad) is a strong side, I believe. The core of this Under-20 squad is made up of players who represented us in both the 2015 Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations and the Under-17 Fifa World Cup as well. I believe having such experience in that group will help us do well in our group and possibly qualify for the knockout rounds.”