Three budding football talents from Gauteng have been named as the winners of the Future Players Talent Search for 2016 and will travel to Spain as guests of LaLiga for an unforgettable experience of top European football.
Philani Kunene, Prince Moeketsi and Charlton Jade were chosen from 100 finalists at the Union Stadium in Newlands, Johannesburg on Saturday, July 23.
Their exceptional talent and dedication won the judges over after a series of skills tests and they join the likes of Banyana Banyana star Refiloe Jane as winners of the prestigious talent identification programme. They will travel to Spain as guests of LaLiga later this year, visiting top clubs, watching training and experiencing the culture of one of Europe’s top footballing nations. The 2016 Future Coaches winner, Christa Kgamphe, will accompany the trio to Europe, along with representatives from Gauteng Provincial Government.
Kunene, who is only 13-years-old, with enormous talent, hails from the Jabulile Secondary School in Orange Farm. “It is amazing for me to have won the Future Players search, this will give me so much confidence to work harder and try and make a career in soccer. I just went out there to show my best and I am happy that the judges recognised my talent,” Kunene said.
Sixteen-year-old Moeketsi is a learner at the Mosupatsela Secondary School and he says he cannot wait to get on the plane for Spain: “I cannot believe it, I am so thankful to everybody involved in the Gauteng Future Players. This will truly be a great experience for me, I have watched teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid and love the way they play football. To be able to go to Spain with LaLiga is something I will never forget.”
Jade is a 15-year-old from Rust-Ter-Vaal Combined School in Vereeniging and is also thankful for the opportunity given by the 2016 Future Players Gauteng: “I love soccer and am so passionate about the sport. To be recognised in this way is amazing and gives me the belief that I can one day play the sport at a high level. I am so excited to go to Spain, I know it will open my eyes to a different culture and I am really excited for that,” Jade said.
MEC Faith Mazibuko from the Gauteng department of sport, arts, culture and recreation congratulated the winners and said the task for the judges was a difficult one. “Every year it seems the talent we see in the Future Players Gauteng gets better and better and I can safely say that the judges agonized over their decision. But congratulations to Philani, Prince and Charlton, who are all deserved winners and can now look forward to broadening their horizons in Spain. As the Gauteng Provincial Government we are committed to providing opportunities for our young people to lead a healthy lifestyle and to use sport as a vehicle for social change,” MEC Mazibuko said.
Antonio Barradas, Africa Director for LaLiga, says they are delighted to be involved with the development of young talent in South Africa and to give the winners the opportunity to visit Spain. “We identified the Future Champions last December and immediately thought it was a great project to support. The past weekend, three young talented players were selected and they will have the opportunity to visit Spain with LaLiga, to train and learn from the Spanish First Division and its culture. It’s a unique experience and we are delighted to give these amazing players a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We wish them all the success and hope the trip helps them further their football careers,” Barradas said.
Ray Whelan, MD of Global Sports International and the driving force behind the Future Champions Gauteng concept, hailed their partnership with the Gauteng Provincial Government and the Spanish LaLiga. “We are always in awe of the huge number of youngsters who take part in the Future Players Talent Search each year and we are grateful for the opportunity to make a positive change in these young people’s lives. It would not be possible without the support of the Gauteng Provincial Government, who have been gracious hosts of our tournaments and development programmes since 2009. We must also thank LaLiga for the way they have embraced the concept this year and we know our three talent search winners will enjoy a fantastic time in Spain,” Whelan said.
The trials were also supported by Clinix Health Group, who sponsored medical assistance and water for the participants, while LoveLife ran their empowering HIV-intervention programme focused on promoting healthy lifestyles for youth. SCORE Energy Drink was also on hand with their interactive penalty shootout arena.