SAFA School of Excellence and Amajimbos midfielder Sibongakonke Mbatha took some time off to share his experience in the 2015 CAF Under-17 CAN currently underway in Niger. SAFA Media Officer Namhla Mphelo (NM) spoke to Sibongakonke Mbatha (SM).
NM: How has your trip to Niamey been so far?
SM: This has been a life changing experience for me. The trip here was so long before anything else. We had to travel via Ethiopia overnight and then fly to Niamey which is on the other end of Africa. This was an experience for me as I have never travelled so long before. The stay in Niamey has been okay, we have gotten used to the food, the climate and the fact that things here are different from home.
NM: How has the experience of the 2015 CAN been so far?
SM: It is an honour for me to be part of the team, I am so grateful for the opportunity bestowed upon me. Playing against other African countries has been an eye opener as to how big football is on the continent. We may speak different languages but football is a language we all understand.
NM: You scored a goal in the opening match, take us through that moment?
SM: Yes, it was team work, I couldn’t have done that without my teammates but I am honoured to have scored my second goal for the national team. That goal gave us the confidence we needed to get a second goal against Ivory Coast although the match ended in a draw.
NM: Now yesterday’s match against Mali also ended in a 2-2 draw, take us through that match?
SM: All I know for a fact is that we could not lose that match, the Malians caught us off guard in the opening minutes of the match and when we were 2-0 down, we all knew as players that we needed to do something. I wish I had also managed to score in that match, that would have helped us, as I had an opportunity in the first half, but my teammates are some of the best players I have ever played with and we managed to come back into that match.
NM: You touched on the fact that different countries speak different languages, what words have you learnt so far in Niamey?
SM: (Laughs) I have learnt how to say “Bonjour”, which is “hello” in French, but I hope to learn more words before we go back home. It is an advantage in football to be able to communicate in a few languages. Firstly, because it opens you to the world, you can network, have friends in different countries and learn different cultures, but more importantly it helps on the pitch when you can understand the opponents’ communication. This gives you an edge when it comes to defending and positioning.
NM: Where do you see yourself in a year from now, what are your hopes and ambitions?
SM: I hope to have come back from the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile later this year. That is our immediate ambition. I also hope to have performed well in my matric exams and be able to have options as to what I may want to study in University, at the moment I would like to study Forensic Sciences. By the grace of God this will be possible.