With the Shield Sbonis’iDiski campaign now in its third year of existence and even bigger than last year, head coach Dumisani Thusi has provided an update on the once-in-a-lifetime football development programme, which could land aspiring footballers a contract with Orlando Pirates.
The campaign, which previously saw Shield team up with Orlando Pirates and Chelsea, has forged a relationship with Premier League champions Manchester City as well as LaLiga in a bid to expand its footprint in South Africa.
With the nationwide talent-spotting contest, which has been expanded from five to 10 regions this year, aiming to reach over 20 000 aspiring football stars, Shield head coach Thusi given a rundown on how the campaign has fared thus far.
"The Sbonis’iDiski campaign has been doing well for 2019," he told Soccer Laduma.
"The regions that we have done so far are: Polokwane, Johannesburg (Alberton), we have also done Johannesburg (Central) and in other regions, from what I have heard, the coaches have been doing well, especially in the Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and Northern Cape.
"From our side, we have visited Polokwane, we saw the talent, players enjoying themselves. As we normally see here in South Africa, there's a wealth of talent in the country."
With 25 coaches being deployed across the country to impart their knowledge in the various communities across South Africa, Thusi revealed the one province that has most impressed him in terms of talent.
"It's difficult to say, in Polokwane I saw quite a bit of talent, likewise with Johannesburg, but I think, from what I've seen in Limpopo, it has (most) excited me."
When asked if there were any candidates that he, together with the Pirates coaches, had seen and earmarked for a possible spot in the Buccaneers' MultiChoice Diski Challenge team, Thusi stated that he has seen "tons" of talent, but maintained that it was too early to tell if they would form part of the final 25.
"Honestly, it's still early, because we still have to visit a number of other regions. Remember, the final selection or the final top three will only come once we have identified the top 25 players across the country," he added
"This way, we will be in a position of saying, 'Yes, three players have the potential, or one player has the potential to play for Orlando Pirates'.
"As I said, it's still going to be a long way before we get to the final cut, which will be in Pretoria."
Upon the conclusion of the nationwide trials in June, the top 25 players will be selected to travel to Pretoria for trials in July.
Thereafter, the three winners will be chosen, and they will then travel to Chelsea's famous Cobham training ground to train under the guidance of Premier League giants' coaching staff.
One aspiring footballer will be crowned the 2019 Shield Ultimate Player, and will take home a one-year contract with Pirates' reserve team.
As a fan, you can enter the contest to stand a chance of winning a once-in-a-lifetime and fully-paid VIP experience with Manchester City at their home ground or at a LaLiga game in Spain by purchasing any Shield product and dialling the USSD code with the last four digits of the barcode on the packaging.