Norodien already has one foot out of the door
…but SA U23 starlet will aim to shine for Ajax in Athlone
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
RIYAAD NORODIEN: ‘To be able to compete in the Olympics is a great achievement for any footballer’