Johannesburg - Former Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba has explained why there are no players from Gauteng in this year’s Nedbank Ke Yona team.
Sixteen players were this week chosen to play against Nedbank Cup champions Free State Stars on September 9.
But many are asking why there are no players from Gauteng, a province that has been dominating in sports development.
The Ke Yona team has had players from this province in the last 16 since the programme started six years ago.
Mashaba, who is one of the selectors, said that some Gauteng players had gone far in the selection process, but failed to make the cut into the last 16.
He said clashes with other competitions hosting events on the same day as the search could have been one of the reasons they couldn’t get the best players from Gauteng.
“The unfortunate part for Gauteng-based players was there were hungrier youngsters from other provinces,” he said.
“Sometimes, when we go to different regions, there were counter-attractions and so we were not sure if the players we saw were the best out there.
“We took the last 48 players to boot camps and that’s where others faded away.”
The announcement followed four months of hard work and preparation through various intense training camps. With more than 16 000 entries into the Ke Yona team search this year, the top 16 were identified and chosen from those whose journeys began with a nationwide search in the form of try-outs.
With five players in the last 16, the Eastern Cape has the most representation.
Mashaba said those who made the team deserved it.
Limpopo’s Jeremiah Mathonsi - who is now part of the new team - was optimistic they would be the first group to beat the Nedbank champions.
“The Ke Yona team hasn’t won the cup, so we want to set a record by becoming the first team to do so,” he said.
Last year’s group became the first to score a goal when they lost 2-1 to SuperSport United. However, some United players were not in the team as they were playing for Bafana Bafana against Cape Verde at about the same time.
Last year’s graduate, left-back Bongani Sam, was snapped up by Bloemfontein Celtic, but then loaned out to then National First Division side Highlands Park.
Centre-back Kamogelo Mogotlane, who captained the Ke Yona team, is on Cape Town City’s books. Goalkeeper Mduduzi Khumalo joined Free State Stars.