18 June 2009
It’s every schoolboy’s dream – playing with the superstars of the Brazilian national football team – and for a lucky group of soccer-mad youngsters from Tshwane/Pretoria, that seemingly impossible dream came true this week.
When the call from the management of the famous Seleçao came that the team was looking for some young opponents to help them at their first training session in Pretoria, the honour of “helping out” fell to the under-17 team of local Premiership champions SuperSport United.
The Brazilians were made to sweat for their hard-fought 4-3 win against African champions Egypt in their first game of the Fifa Confederations Cup in Mangaung/Bloemfontein on Monday night.
So when they limbered up for their first session in Tshwane before Thursday’s game against the United States at Loftus Versfeld Stadium, some of the team’s first-choice stars like Kaka, Dani Alves, Robinho and Lucio were given a relatively easy night, taking a few laps around the field, as the team’s reserve squad took on the SuperSport youngsters in a light practice match.
But Brazil’s “reserves” are no ordinary set of benchwarmers; they’re global superstars in their own right.
Sixteen-year-old defender Brandon Joshua certainly won’t forget the day he “marked” – or tried to mark anyway – Brazil’s AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato, tipped as Brazil’s next really big football name.
“I could not believe it when we ran out on the field together, it was really tremendous,” Joshua said after spending 30 minutes closer than he ever thought he would get to Pato’s quicksilver feet.
“These guys play in top clubs and for their country, and now they play against me, a 16-year-old. This is such a big step for us, we do not usually get the opportunity see such big players, let alone play against them. This has been the greatest moment of my football career so far.”
If Joshua had it tough, some of his SuperSport teammates couldn’t have enjoyed the sight of Real Madrid’s Julio Baptista bearing down on them in full flight, either.
Thankfully, the Brazilians went relatively easy on the local boys, rattling in three goals in the 30-minute session before calling it a night. And what a night it was for the local youngsters, who won’t forget their Confederations Cup experience in a hurry.
“This has been the greatest feeling ever, and I will cherish this moment for the rest of my life,” said 16-year-old midfielder Mbusa Manyoni, still in awe at meeting Kaka before the game.
“This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity; my dream has come earlier than expected,” said 16-year-old Miguel Timm. “It has been a great motivation for me, and I will work very hard to be able to play against these guys for real in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”