Keeper gets SA under-17 call-up

Goalkeeper Taariq Ganga, right, playing some street soccer with his older brother Taahir in Portland.

When Taariq saw the incoming phone call from his coach Mike Jenkins, at 9am last Sunday – his initial thoughts were that he was in trouble.

However, his fear soon turned into ecstasy as his coach woke him up with news that he received a late call-up to attend the SA under-17 training camp.

The young goalkeeper shares a room with his older brother, Taahir, 22, who plays for Glendene United in the ABC Motsepe Leagues second division.

At the time of the call, Taahir was also in bed, but he quickly jumped up to give his parents the news – while Taariq scrambled to get his bags packed.

The streetsmart shot-stopper uses his streetball skills at Ubuntu Football Academy, which is affiliated to Fish Hoek FC.

Taariq’s flight to Johannesburg was at 12.30pm and he needed to meet up with his teammates Luke Fleurs and Brandon Williams, who also received the SA call-ups.

“I was still sleeping when coach called me. The call was unexpected and I thought nothing good could come from a call at that time of the morning,” said Taariq.

“But, coach told me I had to pack immediately for a two-day training camp and I was up immediately. I was so excited and it was also my first flight.

“The news came as a shock because usually players have to go through the regional and Western Cape trials to get to the national trials,” he said.

Taariq said the training camp was no walk in the park, and that he now has a better idea of what the competition is like on a national stage.

“The camp was tough and you could see the standard was very high. There were seven goalkeepers from about 100 players at the camp.

“All the keepers I was competing against were from PSL academies like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns.

“I was the only keeper there who was from a community club.

“There was some experienced goalkeepers. The one made the SA squad before and another plays in the Multichoice Diski Challenge (MDC), which is the reserve team for the PSL.

“I was a bit nervous but the coach encouraged all of us to give our everything,” he said.

Last month, Taariq and his teammates missed the regional and Western Cape trials.

They were preparing for the Knockout Cup and the Engen under-17 Knockout Challenge.

“The Saturday we beat Table View 2-0 in the knockout quarter-finals. We had a thin squad because of injuries and I had to play as a striker.

“I stood goalkeeper on the Sunday when we beat Woodlands 1-0 to qualify for the Knockout Challenge. We also beat Young Bafana and the SA Police during the early stages of the playoffs,” said Taariq.

“I was part of the playoffs squad last year as well but as a reserve goalkeeper.

“I’m really excited to play in this year’s tournament because it will be another opportunity for me to show what I’m made of.

“The coach usually rotates myself and the other goalkeeper, so when I get my chance to play, I will give it all I have.

“We have a strong squad this year and I’m confident that we can make it to the finals,” he said.

Fish Hoek are currently second on the log in the Cape Town Tygerberg Football Association’s (CTTFA) under-17 Super League. They’ve won seven of their nine games, lost two, and are trailing log leaders Ajax Cape Town by six points.

And, their under-17 squad is made up of players who won last year’s under-15 knockout cup after beating Hellenic 2-0.

A Grade 11 pupil at Silvermine Academy, Taariq received a sports scholarship when he joined the Ubuntu Academy four years ago.

“I started at Mr Price Parkhurst at the age of five as a centre-back. And, in my last year under-9 I decided to try out being a goalkeeper.

“And, the following season I made the under-11 board team,” said Taariq.

“It was by chance that I got the trial at Ubuntu. At the time, my friend Luke was scouted and they asked him if he knew of a good goalkeeper – and that’s when he told the coach about me.

“I went on a three-day trial and they told me I made the team. I feel this move was the best thing that could have happened to me.

“I’m getting more skilled training and there’s been more opportunities to become a professional soccer player,” he said.

Since joining Ubuntu, the promising shot-stopper has made the CTTFA district board team every season. In his first season with the club, he won the Rygersdal under-13 junior tournament and scored the Goalkeeper of the Tournament award.

The following season he won the Goalkeeper of the Season and Player of the Year awards at the club. Last year, he bagged the Goalkeeper of the Season award again.

Taahir, a former Ajax Cape Town player, said he is extremely proud of his brother’s achievement of being called up.

And, that the experience can only be the start of better things to come.

“The SA camp was a great opportunity because he’s been working hard at being a goalkeeper and it’s paying off.

“I hope this will be a stepping stone to better things and we as a family hope that he’ll make the final squad,” said Taahir.