15 April 2019 – Playing in a junior FIFA World Cup tournament before he even turned professional had always been a childhood dream for South Africa’s National Under-20 (Amajita) defender, Keenan Phillips.
When the 18-year old from Grassy Park, Cape Town, got a call-up to form part of Amajita coach Thabo Senong’s provisional squad which was preparing for the 2019 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament which took place in Niger earlier this year, the small framed centre-back/wing-back grabbed his chance and has since never looked back.
In their scheduled two practice matches against Mozambican professional side, Costa do Sol, and then NFD side, TS Sporting FC ahead of the tournament, Phillips demonstrated just how versatile and commanding he was at his play.
In the central defensive role, Phillips bellowed out instructions to his fellow teammates from midfield to drop back each time they were under siege, while remaining firm at the back.
Since then, Phillips has operated as a wingback, demonstrating that he could both defend and attack.
Senong took full notice of all of these qualities and gave Phillips the nod to represent his nation on a continental level.
To this day, Phillips marvels at the fact that he was able to fulfil a portion of his childhood dream by forming part of an Amajita squad which qualified for this year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup Poland edition.
This global footballing showpiece will run from 23 May – 15 June.
“My dream was always to see myself playing in junior FIFA World Cup tournament,” Phillips said. “And to be a part of a squad which qualified for the upcoming 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland edition has been huge for me.”
Amajita will report for camp this coming Wednesday (17 April), just two days before they fly out to Saudi Arabia for their scheduled two friendlies matches (22 and 25 April) against their also FIFA U-20 World Cup-bound opponents.
The national juniors will then face Uruguay on 15 May in Poland, before they travel to Ukraine for their final friendly match scheduled for 18 May before the FIFA World Cup tournament kicks off.
Phillips, who is part of Senong’s 26-man provisional squad that is to prepare for the upcoming global footballing event, said these friendly matches will play a key part in getting Amajita ready for their upcoming group fixtures.
Amajita are in Group F alongside Argentina, Korea Republic and Portugal.
A top two in the group will progress to the knockout stages.
Age (date of birth): 18, 7 February 2000
Province/City: Western Cape, Cape Town
Club: Bidvest Wits FC
Previous Club: Helenic FC
League: MultiChoice Diski Challenge