After a nationwide search for South Africa's next football champion, the Shield Sbonis' iDiski campaign gives three players a highly coveted life-changing opportunity to train at Chelsea FC in London this week, with one of them gaining a contract with Orlando Pirates' MultiChoice Diski Challenge team too.
Sbonis' iDiski is in its second-year journey, running a series of pressure tests to find South Africa's next football champion. This year, over 600 players showed up for the Shield Sbonis' iDiski trials, and only three have qualified in the running to be selected as one of the new additions to the Orlando Pirates MDC team, as well as journey to London to train with Chelsea FC.
The three winners are 20-year-old Ryan Adams from Durban, 20-year-old Thulo Thibatsi from Johannesburg and last year's top three finalist, 21-year-old Joshua Roman from Cape Town.
The players were selected from a pool of 25 players who had undergone an intense training skills programme at the High-Performance Centre (HPC) in Pretoria from 31 June to 3 August, facilitated by Chelsea FC coaches, Orlando Pirates MDC coaches and Shield coaches.
At these trials, the players were taken through various technical skills, team playing techniques on the field and off-field training, which comprised media training facilitated by soccer legend Mark Fish, football theory and life after football.
"This year, the competition was tough, we had the challenging task of selecting three players from a team of 25 talented players from across the country. What these young men have is undeniable talent! We are convinced that the future of football in South Africa is bright," Shield Sbonis' iDiski head coach Siphiwe Mkhonza said.
"More than anything, what we hope the players can take away from this trip is the knowledge that Chelsea FC will impart to them. We have partnered with Shield on this great initiative to expand our mandate on football development and it is our belief that, through the players, we can plant a seed so that they return home and share what they have learned in Chelsea with other aspiring football players in South Africa," Laurence Griffin, International Development Head Coach at Chelsea FC, added.
The three players have a jam-packed schedule ahead of them in London with Chelsea FC, where they will taken on to the Stamford Bridge pitch to be presented with personalised Chelsea kit by coaches, will be introduced to the Chelsea FC senior team and will train under the supervision of Chelsea coaches at Cobham.
The players will be a part of Shield Africa XI team to play against a Chelsea Invitational XI on the Main Pitch and you can follow all the action and highlights from Chelsea on our social channels.
Upon their return, one of the three players will be chosen by Orlando Pirates FC to receive a one-year professional contract with Orlando Pirates' MDC team as a fully-paid professional player.
In addition to the top three players, four other players have been selected from the Top 25 to join the Shield Africa XI team to train and play against the Chelsea Invitational XI. The players are: Kyle Meth from Durban, Marco De Bruin from Cape Town, Kgotso Mogagabe from Johannesburg and Mpumelelo Daddyboy Zwane from Pretoria.
This year also marked Shield's commitment to football development across the African continent and taking the competition across some of the African countries to make up the Shield Africa XI team. The countries joining with players include: Ghana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Botswana.