A humble boy from Ulundi Township in KwaZulu Natal is on the brink of rubbing shoulders with the ‘Big Boys’ in the 6th ranked best league in world football.
When Sphephelo ‘Yaya’ Sithole left KZN Academy for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon in August 2017 he had a dream of one day playing in Portugal’s top division where the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Angel Di Maria and many other great footballers started their careers.
Sithole made a few more moves mainly joining Lisbon-based clubs in his search for an opportunity to play first team football. He joined Sporting’s cross town rivals Vitoria Setubal in August 2018 before settling with SAD Belenenses from January 2019.
It is at SAD Belenenses where the 21-year-old found a permanent home with a club that believes in young players and plays the style that suits his strength while improving his weaknesses.
Sithole signed an initial two-year-deal with Belenenses before being offered a new deal that will keep him at the club for another three years.
The midfielder made a total of 23 Liga Revelacao appearances with the U-23 development squad where he played regularly excelling in the holding midfield role for the past 18 months.
When the Primeira Liga resumed after the Covid-19 break Sithole made the substitute’s bench a few times before ultimately making his Primeira Liga debut against SC Braga on the 15th of July, with Belenenses coming back from a goal down to draw 1-1 away from home.
‘Yaya’ has been with the first team squad preparing for the start of the season and has featured in 2 of the club’s 4 preparation matches. This will be the KZN Academy graduate’s first full season in the Portuguese top flight as he enters a stage where a player’s career can either start on well or hit a snag.
*Belenenses beat Vitoria Guimaraes 1-0 away on Friday and ‘Yaya’ was not in the squad.
By Prince Sobayeni