Durban teens get a taste of the World Cup

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Durban - Cristiano Ronaldo is a sporting idol, revered by young children around the world for his masterful skills with the ball, and they can only dream about a moment with the star. But for a few ball crew members and flag bearers in Durban, the dream of getting a glimpse of their football heroes became a reality, writes Kemantha Govender.

For KwaMashu's Thabiso Mabaso, throwing the ball to the Portuguese skipper during a live game was an experience the 15-year-old will treasure for a long time.

Adrian Laas provided Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with a ball and the German took the time to give the youngster the thumbs up sign. For this 17-year-old, words can't convey the magnitude of his experience.

Mabaso and Laas are members of the ball crew based in Durban and have quickly become "celebrities" among friends and family.

The duo was on duty at the Moses Mabhida Stadium during the group stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when Germany defeated Australia and Brazil and Portugal played to a goalless draw. And they will next be on duty at the semi-final on July 7.

They love football and play for the AmaZulu Football club junior team, therefore being involved in the World Cup is nothing short of phenomenal for them.

They were selected by team officials to be a part of the tournament, much to their delight and that of their family and friends.

"I got to throw the ball to one of the World's best players. I can't really describe that feeling apart from saying, it's just so great," said a beaming Thabiso.

Adrian added that it is quite nerve-wrecking being on the field with so many people watching the game.

"You have to be focused and watch the game all the time. You have to be very quick. I am glad that I managed to get to the ball to the German goalkeeper quite quickly. So it went well," he said.

Getting up close and personal with soccer stars is a mind blowing experience for Adrian and Thabiso.

"I am just over excited to be a part of the World Cup. It is such a great feeling. Getting to see the players - some of the biggest football players - is too exciting, seeing Ronaldo and Robin van Persie," added Adrian.

Thabiso could not hide his excitement with seeing the likes of Philipp Lahm, Wesley Sneijder and van Persie, saying it's a great experience and he has no issues handling the massive crowds. "I wasn't overwhelmed".

The boys are proud to be South African and are disappointed that Bafana Bafana are no longer in the competition.

They now throw their support behind other teams. Adrian wants Spain to exert the prowess and lift the Cup while Thabiso hopes that Ghana will give the continent something to shout about.

Sanasha Chetty, a young girl from Chatsworth, has never really been interested in soccer. She would watch the occasional Manchester United match because her family are avid supporters, but that is has far as it would go.

Now things have changed completely for Chetty, who was tasked to carry Australia's flag during the clash against Germany. She got to be a flag bearer after being selected in a competition.

It was Sanasha's first time at the Moses Mabhida Stadium and the entire experience was simply "amazing".

"I feel that the World Cup has changed my life. Also that of South Africa. It has brought people together. It also made me realise that I too can play soccer. I understand the game so much better and I want to go watch more games live," she said.

The flag crew members received a day of training and had to practise five times before the match started. After completing their duties, they were seated among the crowd.

"I enjoyed myself. It was too exciting. I was nervous but got used to everything quite quickly."
Her mother, Sagrie, was just as overjoyed as her daughter.

"I am extremely proud of my daughter. I cried when I saw her on TV but I think her father cried a whole lot more. This is a once-in-life chance. She will never get to do this again, so this is very special," said Sagrie.

Lorenzo Moonsamy also got to carry Australia's flag, with the help of a family friend.
While Moonsamy relished his encounter at the opening game, he would have liked to be a part of the Spain vs Switzerland group match.

"I am a Spanish supporter. They are such an exciting team. I am also a Liverpool fan and would have loved to see Fernando Torres in action," said Lorenzo.

He said it was unbelievable watching all the players just walk pass him because "these are people you only see on TV".

The World Cup has also inspired Lorenzo to make a return to league football in Phoenix.
A move that makes his proud parents happy.

"This is a life -long honour. I want to tell my grandchildren about this and hopefully I will be around to do this," said Lorenzo's father, Daya.