Even though he wears hand-me-down studless soccer boots, 15-year-old Juliano Botha from Pefferville has been selected to play in a soccer tournament in Barcelona, Spain.
Juliano, also known as “Gooby”, started playing soccer at the age of 10 and is the striker for the Pefferville United Football Club’s under-16 team.
His coach Rowen Botha describes him as a “brutal finisher”.
“Whenever the team plays, it is guaranteed Juliano will score a goal,” said Botha.
Juliano was selected to play in Barcelona by the East London Central Local Football Association after he made an impression at a tournament held in Port Elizabeth in September.
The Barcelona tournament will take place from July 2-6 next year.
At that tournament in PE, Juliano played in worn-out soccer boots without studs given to him by a fellow team member.
The Saturday Dispatch met up with the shy teenager at his home, a one-room shack he shares with his 31-year-old mother, four younger siblings and an uncle.
He had just returned from a training session on the beach.
“I jog to the Eastern Beach and train on the sand to keep myself fit and in form,” he said.
Sitting next to his mother on their only bed, Juliano appeared a bit nervous, but let out a big smile whenever the Barcelona topic came up.
“I am so excited. I feel like this is the big break I have been waiting for,” he said.
For the community and club members it comes as no surprise that Juliano excelled in the sport, as his mother, Josephine Botha, was a former player of the female team of the same club as her son.
“I am so proud of him. As a mother raising children under such hard living conditions, I made a promise not to let their circumstances hold them back. And now I believe my son will rise above this and change our lives for the better,” said Josephine.
The family survives on grant money which is R350 for each child and money from odd cleaning and laundry jobs Josephine does.
Pefferville United co-founder Nathan Miles said this was a huge achievement for Juliano, the club and also for the community.
Juliano needs about R25000 to cover the expenses for his trip.
The East London Football Association has contributed R5000 and the club has appealed to the public for assistance.
Anyone who would like to help, can contact Charmaine Donn on 074-567-1944 or Miles on 072-535-8730. — firstname.lastname@example.org