Stellenbosch Football Club

Stellenbosch-born Smith delights at first team & SA U-20 call-ups

Football 2024 Nedbank Cup Stellenbosch Fc Press Conference Lentelus Sports Complex

Stellenbosch-born defender Tylon Smith has reflected proudly on being part of the first team set-up and earning a first South Africa U-20 call-up this past week.

Smith achieved two notable milestones last week after being named in Stellenbosch FC’s first team squad for the Nedbank Cup victory over Milford FC, and in the extended South Africa U-20 squad for a training camp that is set to take place later this month.

“It’s been a very, very special week,” the Jamestown-born defender says. “I was in my room and knew nothing about the SA U-20 call-up until someone told me outside, and I actually jumped from excitement when I heard.

“My family was so happy when I told them because they have always wanted me to achieve my dreams of representing my country and my club, so this has been a big blessing for us.

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“My mother [Nicolette] has always supported me and prayed for me to achieve my goals. Every day, she prays for me and motivates me not to let circumstances prevent me from achieving that, and I believe God heard her prayers.”

Smith’s international call-up comes on the back of his maiden matchday experience with the first-team squad, where he featured as an unused substitute during the club’s resounding 6-1 Nedbank Cup win over Milford FC last Friday.

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“It was an amazing feeling to be included,” he continues. “Who could have thought that in one season I would go from the academy to the DDC, and then into the first-team squad?

“I always felt that I would make it to the first team though because I have been performing well in the DDC, but to actually see the jersey with my surname on hanging in the dressing room was indescribable.

“Being able to mingle with all of the experienced players in the team was exciting for me and to be in that environment, rubbing shoulders with them, made me feel as though I belong there and that I can make it as a PSL player.”

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Smith’s latest milestones follow an impressive year for the 18-year-old who has excelled at DStv Diski Challenge level this season, while he previously also starred for the U-18 team in the triumphant Engen Knockout Challenge and Engen Champ of Champs campaigns.

“Playing in the Engen Knockout Challenge was exciting for me because you always look forward to playing in tournaments as a player,” he continues.

“It was a great experience to go on and win the competition and being named Defender of the Tournament lifted me and really made me realise that I have the ability and potential to succeed in football.

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“We then went to the national Engen Champ of Champs and won again which was tough, but it was nice to compete at an even higher level. We conceded very few goals across the two tournaments, which I believe is a reflection that we defended well and that gives me confidence as a centre-back.

“From there I caught the eye of the DDC coaches and it was difficult to make the step up in the beginning, to be honest, because I wasn’t used to the intensity and physicality of the league.

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“It took me a while to break into the starting XI but I started getting the hang of it, and from then we went on a nine-match winning streak, which I am very proud of. The coaches have backed me and trusted me to play an important role in the team and that faith has been important for me.”

While Smith has enjoyed rapid growth at a developmental level this season, the teenager is humble in acknowledging that he still has work to do before achieving the lofty ambitions he has for his career.

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“Coach Van [Evangelos Vellios] always tells me that if I get chances like these, I mustn’t try to be a hero,” he concludes. “I must just play my natural game, focus on the basics, and work hard. It’s important to follow the coach’s instructions and do what is expected of me consistently, and the reward will follow.”