Cape Town - An Absa Premiership debut for Ajax Cape Town defender Sirgio Kammies was more than adequate compensation for missing out on the chance to represent his country.
The 19-year-old had been set to represent the South African side in the 2017 U20 COSAFA Cup in Zambia but was withdrawn from the squad by Urban Warriors head coach Stanley Menzo who then handed the youngster his first-team debut against Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg last week.
"I didn't know that I was going to play and when the coach informed me that I will not be going to Zambia for the COSAFA Cup I was a bit upset because I was positive that I'd play, and be in the starting 11 there," the full-back told the Ajax website.
"But, then when we went on camp [in Johannesburg], the coach announced the team and I must admit that I was shocked to be included from the onset against Bidvest Wits. I didn't expect it to happen and at the time I was very nervous."
After overcoming his initial nerves, Kammies says he was pleased with his contribution on the night in a league match which ended 0-0.
"It was going to be my first game. But after my teammates spoke to me and told me that they will have my back – talk me through the match and not have a go at me, but encourage me instead – I felt calm.
"For me, personally, I felt good. For the first time in a long time, it felt like I had a really good match," he said.
Menzo also gave the player a thumbs-up for his debut.
"He did very well for a youngster. His debut was not in an easy match against Wits, so I'm very proud of him," Menzo said.
"I gave him a big compliment, and it's now for him to keep this level and try to make steps forward. If he does that then all will be well with him."
Meanwhile, the Elsies River-born Ajax youth product is hoping to become a positive role model for his neighbourhood. "It feels great, the community I come from there is a lot of gangster-ism and not a lot of people 'make it'.
"So, I just want send out a few words of encouragement to everyone from my neighbourhood – never let anyone tell you that you are not good enough. Keep working hard and you will achieve all your goals."
The Urban Warriors next face Kaizer Chiefs at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in their final league game before the festive break.
Kick off is at 20:15.