Cape Town - Young centre-back Dean Jones has gone from training on his own to working with arguably the biggest club in the country in an instant, all thanks to the Nedbank Ye Kona Team Search headed four of the most revered tacticians in the country.
The 21-year-old centre-back has been drafted to train for a month with Kaizer Chiefs under the watchful eye of their coach Steve Komphela, with the hope of winning a professional contract.
Having impressed during the prestige match against Nedbank Cup champions Mamelodi Sundowns recently, where he played the full 90 minutes, Jones has grown in confidence, but says he is still “stunned” to be getting this potentially life-changing chance.
“I was really surprised when I was drawn to join Kaizer Chiefs,” he says.
“In my mind I thought I would go to one of the smaller clubs in the PSL, but to get drafted to the champions is just so exciting.
"Obviously it is a bit daunting also because they have quality, international players, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to make my dream of being a professional footballer come true.”
It will be a huge step up for the Athlone-born defender, who has been training on his own after leaving former side Salt River Blackpool.
“I am very dedicated, so I have made sure I stayed fit and focused while training on my own,” he said.
“And of course my time with the Nedbank Ke Yona Team has prepared me well for this challenge. I have worked with some of the best coaches in the country and know what the expectations are.
“The last few months have been amazing in my development as a footballer and now is the time to take all that I have learnt and put it into practice.”
Jones says the fact that young Chiefs centre-back Lorenzo Gordinho was given a start by Amakhosi coach Steve Komphela against SuperSport United recently is encouraging for him as well.
“Gordinho is a great defender but he does not have much experience in the PSL, so it was very encouraging for me to see that he was selected to play.
“That shows that Steve Komphela is ready to put his faith in young players and give them opportunities. That provides extra motivation for me.”
In a new innovation for this year, 16 of the Nedbank Ke Yona Team were each drafted to a Premier Soccer League side where they will spend a month training with the team in the hopes of winning a professional contract.