29 June 2017 – Having completed only his second season in the National First Division (NFD), it never dawned on midfielder Jamie Webber that he could be called up to the Bafana Bafana squad that will take part in the 2017 COSAFA Castle CUP currently underway in Rustenburg.
Born 19 years ago in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, Webber got his chance as a replacement for Mandla Masango who was unable to honour the national team call up.
He started his career with Ou Mutual before moving to Ikapa in the Vodacom League (now known as the ABC Motsepe League). He then joined Stellenbosch FC in the NFD.
The midfielder had just finished taking part in the NFD/PSL Play-offs with his club when the national team call up came through.
“I was over the moon when I heard I had been invited to the national team and now that I am here I am very excited. The first people I called after I heard the news were my parents. My father didn’t believe me at first but when I told him I was flying the same day to join up with the squad he was very happy – when I was asked if I could be able to fly on the same day I did not hesitate. I have learnt a lot over these past few days I have been here and I can only improve. I will take this as good experience, even if I don’t play,” said an elated Webber.
“The training sessions have been great, very professional, very structured and constructive. It’s a completely different ball game to what happens at club level.”
He is in the company of other youngsters in the 20-man squad selected by Bafana Bafana head coach Stuart Baxter.
“It means a lot to be in this squad of young players like myself because in South Africa coaches don’t normally play youngsters even at the club, and I am glad that coach Baxter believes in us youngsters. He has given us this opportunity and we have to grab it, and I know we are all excited to get this chance. If you look at a player like (Sibongakonke) Mbatha, he is short but brilliant. I have never seen a short player with such amazing skills on the ball. The future of South African football is bright, especially with coach Stuart at the helm,” added Webber.
“This is an opportunity to prove ourselves. I just hope we get the right exposure, the right eyes to see us. I would like to go to Europe some day, so I hope this is the chance. But I must say the shift from NFD to the national team is amazing, I just can’t explain it.”
Webber is confident that the host nation will do well in the COSAFA Castle Cup.
“I hope we win the COSAFA CUP, and if we do it will be the fifth time – making us the only country to have done so,” said Webber.
He hasn’t forgotten how Stellenbosch FC missed out on promotion to the Premier Soccer League after finishing third in the Play-offs – behind Black Leopards and eventual winners Baroka FC. For them, it was a case of so near yet so far.
“I actually cried after we were knocked out as I knew what it meant for me and the club because of all the things that have been happening – like the move from Vasco to Stellenbosch, the type of training we went through before the playoffs, which was as hard as if we were doing another pre-season training. When we qualified for the play-offs, we started thinking big, believing that we could win it, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. But we have learnt our lessons,” concluded Webber.
He has another year left on his contract with Stellenbosch FC, but he says if the PSL comes calling he will not hesitate.