When Mafikeng’s Sol Plaatje Secondary School runs out to play in the North West provincial finals of the U19 Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup soccer competition at the Thlakgameng Stadium in Ganyesa on 3rd August, they will be looking to midfielder’s, Thato “Cheese” Tlhabanelo and Norman “The General” Manong Jnr. , to do the business for them. Both played in the tournament last year and have promising futures in soccer.
“I love playing is this tournament for a number of reasons,” said Tlhobanelo. “Scouts come and watch us, I enjoy meeting different players from different schools and seeing what we can pick up in terms of their style of play and our school has been successful in the Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup. We have been the provincial champions for the past two years with the R200 000 we won being used to build and equip a gym which has helped us a lot in terms of fitness.”
Tlhabanelo got his nickname in primary school because he could dribble like Lebohang “Cheese Boy” Mokoena, and began to dream of becoming a professional when he was 13 years old, in grade 7, after being selected to compete in a SASFA under-12 tournament and met Mark Fish. “He encouraged us to take soccer seriously, to practise and be disciplined” said Tlhabanelo.
Working hard is what Tlhabanelo is used to and is inspired by his mother Naomi Tlhabanelo, a business woman who owns a catering and decorating company. “She works hard in order to give me and my siblings a better life than she had, she’s a fighter and I love that about her,” he said.
Norman “The General” Manong Jnr will bring the advantage of overseas experience to the team after being selected to go to São Paulo, Brazil, to attend an academy. “We attended their training programme for 2 weeks and played a few games for the academy. Even though I didn’t get signed to the team, I was happy with my performance and I learned a lot while there,” he said.
Norman’s father, Norman Manong Snr, is director of the Department of Social Development in Mafikeng. “My father is my inspiration. He is very supportive; he comes to all of my matches and has never missed a game. He’s like my second coach on and off the field,” Norman says. “Seeing my father in the crowds watching me makes me want to play even harder and better, He is my inspiration and he wants me to go further in developing my soccer career.”
Norman got his nickname “The General” after Teko Modise. “I play like him, and have the same hairstyle as him,” he said.
Norman’s goal is to study Public Administration, following in his father’s footsteps, and while studying, he would like to play for Supersport United or Wits. “Both those teams are very big on taking on and developing soccer players and I want to be part of a team that natures your talent from the beginning,” he said.
Other teams competing in the North West Sanlam Kay Motsepe Schools Cup:
Freedom Park Secondary -Rustenburg
Sol Plaatjie Secondary -Mafikeng
Maitemogelo Secondary -Wolmaranstaad
Sebetwane Secondary -Vryberg