Playing Brazil – every schoolboy’s dream come true
It's every schoolboy's dream - playing with the superstars of the Brazilian national football team - and for a lucky group of Tshwane/Pretoria soccer-mad youngsters that seemingly impossible dream actually came true this week.
When the call from the management of the famous Selecao came that the team was looking for some young opponents to help them at their first training session in Tshwane, 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 Egypt in their first game of the FIFA Confederations Cup in Mangaung on Monday night. So when they limbered up for their first session in Tshwane before tomorrow's game against the United States at Loftus Versfeld, 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. 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," said Joshua, out of breath and excited after spending 30 minutes closer than he ever thought he would get to Pato's quicksilver feet.
If Joshua had it tough, some of his SuperSport team-mates 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 will surely never forget their FIFA Confederations Cup experience in a hurry.
For Joshua, the exciting tournament has done more than just bring the world's best teams to South Africa, it has brought him onto the pitch with the very players he idolises.
"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 clearly stunned at being able to meet Kaka before the game.
"This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, my dream has come earlier than expected. 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," said 16-year-old Miguel Timm.