Noro­dien al­ready has one foot out of the door

…but SA U23 star­let will aim to shine for Ajax in Athlone

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - RODNEY REINERS

RIYAAD NORO­DIEN hops on a flight to Sene­gal on Tues­day but be­fore that, Ajax Cape Town are hop­ing the 20-yearold winger re­mains fo­cused – there’s still one last task be­fore he de­parts for the west African coun­try.

The South African Un­der23 squad, in which Noro­dien has been in­cluded, will par­tic­i­pate in the Eight Na­tions tour­na­ment in Sene­gal over the com­ing weeks.

The event is the of­fi­cial African qual­i­fier for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The top three U23 coun­tries book a place at the global sport­ing spec­tac­u­lar in Brazil.

Noro­dien is look­ing for­ward to the tour­na­ment and the pos­si­bil­ity of play­ing at the Olympics. But, for now, he has tem­pered his U23 en­thu­si­asm, keenly aware of how im­por­tant his con­tri­bu­tion is when Ajax host Su­perS­port United at Athlone Sta­dium tonight (kick­off 8.15pm).

As much as Sene­gal is on his mind, he is at the mo­ment solely fo­cused on de­liv­er­ing a per­for­mance wor­thy of his U23 se­lec­tion tonight.

“We are ex­pect­ing a tough en­counter against Su­perS­port, they’re start­ing to get bet­ter af­ter a poor run of re­sults,” said Noro­dien. “We’ll have to be ready…

“But we have been work­ing hard at train­ing and we should just go out there and get the three points.”

Noro­dien has had a sen­sa­tional rise to promi­nence over the last year. Out of com­pet­i­tive foot­ball for al­most 18 months due to a con­trac­tual dis­pute with Ajax, he was hunger per­son­i­fied on his re­turn to the club.

Af­ter just one train­ing ses­sion back at the Parow club, coach Roger de Sa was im­pressed and it wasn’t long be­fore the young­ster was flung into the PSL team. He went on to catch the eye with some mes­meris­ing per­for­mances.

Ear­lier this year, in a pre­sea­son tour­na­ment at Cape Town Sta­dium, Noro­dien was in blind­ing form against Por­tuguese gi­ants Sport­ing Lis­bon, mak­ing their de­fend­ers look rather or­di­nary.

Also this year, he was in Ger­many with the Ajax U20 squad for the Er­gen­zin­gen Tour­na­ment. The Ur­ban War­riors lost out in the semi­fi­nals, but Noro­dien was still named as the Player of the Tour­na­ment.

He has al­ready im­pressed quite a few over­seas scouts and in­di­ca­tions are that it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore he lands a Euro­pean con­tract.

And in Sene­gal over the next few weeks, Noro­dien cer­tainly has another stage to show­case his un­doubted abil­ity.

“When I came back to Ajax last year, not many in the PSL had prob­a­bly heard of me,” he said. “But I think once they saw me in ac­tion, and saw what I had to of­fer, peo­ple were im­pressed.

“And that is why this U23 call-up is so spe­cial for me. It’s the first time I’ve been in­volved in a na­tional team be­cause I never played at U17 or U20 level. I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to the tour­na­ment in Sene­gal.

“As a squad, the U23s are look­ing to make his­tory. We want to qual­ify for next year’s Rio Olympics and re­ally go on to make the coun­try proud.

“To be able to com­pete in the Olympics is a great achieve­ment for any foot­baller, and we have an op­por­tu­nity to ful­fil such a dream.”

And Noro­dien is con­fi­dent they have the squad to pull it off.

“There are good play­ers like Kea­gan Dolly and Menzi Ma­suku in the team… We’ve looked good in the prepa­ra­tions for the Eight Na­tions, the play­ers un­der­stand each, we are mo­ti­vated, and we just want to go out fin­ish the job,” he said.

But again, as much as Noro­dien is primed for Sene­gal, his more im­me­di­ate goal is Su­perS­port tonight, and in­spir­ing Ajax to vic­tory. SA U23 Squad: Goal­keep­ers: Jody Fe­bru­ary (Ajax CT), Ri­cardo Goss (Golden Ar­rows), Kyle Peters (Cape Town All Stars) De­fend­ers: Tshepo Rikhotso (Bloem­fontein Celtic), Kwanda Mn­gonyama (Mar­itzburg), Ri­valdo Coet­zee (Ajax CT), Zitha Macheke (Chippa United), Den­win Farmer (Su­perS­port United), Tebogo Mo­er­ane (Wits) Mid­field­ers: Ab­bubaker Mo­bara (Ajax CT), Gift Mo­tupa (Or­lando Pi­rates), Menzi Ma­suku (Or­lando Pi­rates), Kea­gan Dolly (Mamelodi Sun­downs), Phum­lani Nt­shangase (Wits), Paseka Mako (Cape Town All Stars), De­olin Mekoa (Mar­itzburg). Strik­ers: Phaka­mani Mahlambi (Wits), Siphelele Nt­shangase (Black Leop­ards), Sibu­siso Sibeko (Golden Ar­rows), Du­misani Zuma (Bloem­fontein Celtic) SA U23 fix­tures: Satur­day, Novem­ber 28: Sene­gal v South Africa – Léopold Senghor Sta­dium (5pm, SA time) Tues­day, De­cem­ber 1: South Africa v Zam­bia – Léopold Senghor Sta­dium (5pm, SA time) Satur­day, De­cem­ber 4: South Africa vs Tu­nisia – Caro­line Faye Sta­dium (5pm, SA time) Wed­nes­day, De­cem­ber 9: Semi­fi­nals Satur­day, De­cem­ber 12: Third/fourth-place play­offs and fi­nal

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RIYAAD NORO­DIEN: ‘To be able to com­pete in the Olympics is a great achieve­ment for any foot­baller’

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