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Shabalala ready for the big time 19/08/04
Nhlanhla Shabalala, who has recently graduated to the Ajax Cape Town First team, is a shining example of the successful youth structure the Urban Warriors have in place.

The Free State born striker does not regret the day he was signed by the Urban Warriors under-15 team in 2000 because the club has managed to develop him into a top striker who would otherwise not have been discovered.

"When Ajax signed in 2000, I was lucky to be part of the under-15 team that went to the Nike international under-15 tournament in Holland that same year. I was voted the player of the tournament after I had scored 5 goals,' said the soft spoken Shabalala.

When he came back from that tour, he was promoted to the under-17 team, where he continued to be a willing and eager player to learn from his coaches and easily slotted into the Ajax style that was the same as the one he was used to in the under-15's.

"Been promoted to the under-17 was no different from playing in the under-15s, the style was the same, only the play was more physical but it help me develop as a player," said the 18-year-old Shabalala, who lists Mabhuti Khanyeza of Golden Arrows as his favourite PSL player.

Known as the best youth development football team in the country, Ajax Cape Town brought the best out of their young striker who was promoted to the under-19's in his second year at he club.

"When I was promoted into the under-19, the competition was tough, more physical than what I was expecting, but my coach was there to work with me on my weaknesses," said 'Shaba', who has 20 caps for the national under-20 team.

Shabalala also said that it was with under-19s where he became a strong player who could stand the tough professional ranks.

"Because of the training at Ajax, it was not difficult to play in a more senior team and the coaches in the senior teams knew my weakness and my strengths, which made life for all the junior players at the club very easy," said Shabalala.

One of his biggest soccer moments was when he was in the starting line-up last season against Orlando Pirates.

"That was my first game that I started for Ajax Cape first team and I was nervous in the first 20 minutes but like one family, my teammates were there to encourage me and I just picked up my confidence," he said.

The striker, who has enrolled for a Certificate in Business Management with Damelin Education Group, is hoping to go all way the to the degree level.

"The club has given me a chance to go and study with Damelin and that what I will be doing because when I am not training, I used to spend my time hanging out with my friends at he Waterfront or watching TV but that is going to be a thing of the past with my studies taking my spare time from football," said Shabalala who was excited about his up-coming studies.

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