1 August 2018–Up in the final third, where opposition defenders are most aggressive and bullish in every tackle made in an attempt to scare off opposing players, South Africa’s national Under-20 midfielder, Nkosingiphile Ngcobo, plays with such great calmness in that area as if he knows the secret of speed and time.

He demonstrated his class and quality on the ball when he was summoned to come on in the 34th minute for injured Promise Mkhuma in their third round second leg Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations qualify, where Amajita qualified for next year’s Niger edition following a 2-0 aggregate scoreline against Malawi.

In that matchup, Ngcobo mocked speed and time with his swaggering confidence on the ball. Opposing players struggled to get hold of him each time he was on the move. They were either a second late for an attempted tackle, or too negligent to track his movements each time he pressed forward. And that’s because Ngcobo played with one motive in his mind. And that is the 18-year old Kaizer Chiefs attacker wanted to see himself qualifying for his first ever AFCON Under-20 in his young playing career.

“That was the driving in my play in that matchup,” Ngcobo says. “I wanted to help the team (secure the ticket) to Niger so badly. It will be my first (AFCON) appearance there. I know it won’t be easy to make the final squad for next year, however, I’m willing to put in the work to be counted in.

“I’m planning to use this season’s MultiChoice Diski Challenge to get me sharper than I currently am in my play. I want to score more goals and provide plenty of assists for my club, while also being more effective when it’s time for us to drop back and defend in our reserve league matches. I believe that doing that will get me ready for next year’s AFCON tournament which is just seven months away.”

Believing is what Ngcobo does before he makes his way to the pitch ahead of every match he plays. In the midst of the expected slight nerves ahead of any encounter, a raucous clamor out in the stands from passionate football supporters, the 18-year old from Pietermaritzburg zones out from all of it to remind himself why he was counted worthy to make the team in the first place.

“Ahead of every game,” Ngcobo says. “I quietly remind myself that: ‘I’m the best and that there’s no one better than me in the opposition’s camp out there on the pitch. That enables me to play my normal game and contribute the best way I possibly can for both club and country. Another driving force is that no one in my family, especially from my dad’ side, ever got to play for a professional side or even represent the nation in any match. Dad and his other three siblings used to play. He was a defender during his days, and when we qualified for next year’s AFCON tournament, him and mom where the first people I told. He was so excited because he knows that I’m doing my very best to lift the Ngcobo family name the best way I can in the game.

Ngcobo added that his ultimate dream is to one day earn a move abroad, and that next year’s AFCON under-20 tournament serves perfect platform to work towards that.

“This is a strong squad we have at Amajita, and I believe that we have what it takes to qualify for next year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup (set to take place in Poland),” Ngcobo said. “Everybody is just driven to do great and that’s a positive thing. The Under-20 World Cup will also serve as perfect platform for us to get scouted and possibly earn moves abroad. That’s where my sights are set now.”