JOHANNESBURG – “It’s been crazy,” Lyle Foster says at the Nike Football Training Centre with a large grin and stars in his eyes as he struggles to put in words his rise to stardom.
But when the 17-year-old Orlando Pirates striker eventually finds his tongue, he is composed and eloquent, like he is with the ball at his feet.
A year ago, Foster was playing amateur football at the Discovery Walter Sisulu Soccer Challenge.
He returned for the launch of this year’s edition yesterday as a professional who has made four appearances for the Soweto giants, with one assist to his name and interest from teams in Germany and France.
“It’s been crazy. It’s crazy that I was playing in this tournament last year. I thought that I would be back again this year, but unfortunately I can’t,” Foster said with a wry smile.
“Life has moved very fast for me. I am happy that I made my dream come true, but I am still very far from where I want to be. It’s been a big transition.
“I just try to keep level-headed and do the best that I can for the club that I grew up supporting.”
The lad from Noordgesig, a township in Soweto, signed for the Buccaneers in September.
The club’s chairman Irvin Khoza waxed lyrical about his talent after he was handed jersey No 20, having impressed in the numerous youth tournaments he took part in, which saw him called up to the national Under-20 team at 16.
“Some of the best footballers that the country has ever produced have donned this jersey. The likes of Chippa Moloi, Teboho’s father, he was one of the best. That’s why you see his picture on the walls. Together with many names like Jomo Sono and Kaizer Motaung, these players made an impact at this club and left their mark,” Khoza said in a statement.
“It was a big shock,” Foster describes his reaction to hearing the news of his promotion.
“I had just come back from England with the (Under-20) national team. I was told that I had to play a friendly with the first team after I landed from England. The next day, I was signed.
“It was madness for me. Even now, I still feel like I am dreaming. It’s quite weird when people ask to take pictures with me. I am not used to that.
“I don’t want to be big-headed though, because if you’re big-headed, this game will eat you up. I am enjoying what I do. This is not a job, but a passion. To do it every day is just a bonus.”
Foster made his debut against Maritzburg United just over a week after he signed for the first team.
He joins Pirates at a difficult time as they look to make up for the wrongs of last season’s disastrous campaign, which means everything they do is under scrutiny.
“The pressure at Pirates is always big, no matter which age-group you’re in. Pirates are a results-driven team. If you’re Under-12, you’re expected to win every week because you are Orlando Pirates.
“This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest club in South Africa. You must always deliver.
“I went to the first team with the same mentality, that Pirates is a big team and they need to win every competition and every match they’re in.”
Pirates haven’t won every match they have been involved in this season.
In fact, they’ve won just four of their 12 league games yet they find themselves in second place. If they were more clinical, they would be first with a huge gap in a season characterised by draws.
Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic was so disappointed by the club’s misfiring ways that he said the missing he has seen in South Africa is the worst he has seen in a career that has taken him to over 130 countries.
“Micho” joins a long list of people who have slammed South African strikers.
“I try not to focus too much on the critics and what the papers say. I just focus on what I am supposed to do at training so that when the game comes, I am ready. That doesn’t bother me,” Foster said.
“If I focus on that, I will end up losing my mind and I will also start missing chances. That’s why I just keep focused and humble, stay in my own space so that I can succeed in whatever I am doing.
“Hopefully when I am given a chance, I will deliver. But I am not saying that I will (solve the club’s scoring problems). I bet on myself though that I will deliver.”