The Chance 2011 Interview: Reyaad Pieterse today shows you just how Nike’s The Chance can change a young boy’s life… 

It’s January 2011 and an eighteen-year-old South African goalkeeper called Reyaad Pieterse prepares to leave Johannesburg airport on route for Nike’s The Chance Finals in London. He’s good and he’s ambitious but he has no idea what will happen next. Just eighteen months later and he is now playing professional football. This is his story… 

How did you feel leaving South Africa that day?

I was at the airport crying my eyes out. I love my home and family, this was the first time away from them, my first time on a plane even, so I found it tough. I will never forget it. I was like a big baby! 

How daunting was it to arrive in London and start the Final?

By the time we landed I was so excited. There were nerves but I wanted to show the coaches what I could do. My dream was to play pro-football and this was the start of making it a reality. 

Today was the start of this year’s final. What will this year’s finalists be feeling?

Nervous. They want to do the best they can, they want to impress but sometimes you can try too hard, try to do too much. They need to keep things simple, listen to the coaches, do your best and be positive all the time. 

Mistakes can be made. Is it easy to react negatively to an early mistake and think you’ve blown it?

On my second morning, I threw three or four in the goal but never, ever looked at it as a negative. I instantly forgot about the errors and got on with the drills. When I am alone after training, then I will analyse things, think about how I can improve and what I might have done differently. I think then you can become better. 

As your week went on, did you grow in confidence?

Things were going well yes. As the week goes on, the players will begin to support each other and push each other. I felt I was doing well, making saves, getting good comments from the coaches and that was a boost. 

As the week goes on, players will be cut from the squad. How hard does that get?

Very tough. One of my South African compatriots was told he wouldn’t be going further and you could see he was upset. He was incredible though and despite that disappointment, he kept supporting us, he kept pushing us. When we played the final game he was screaming from the stands and that was great. 

Tell us about the final?

It was the biggest game of my life. I didn’t sleep much the night before. I was praying a lot and was so nervous, so excited. I went into the game very positively though. I had had good feedback and was confident. I pulled off some saves and played well. 

How nervous were you when they announced the winners?

Oh it was so hard. I had dreamed the night before that my name was the fourth to come out. When that fourth name wasn’t mine, I was like, “Oh no, I’ve blown it!” My name came out seventh and I was just so happy. It was a great moment. 

And the start of something big?

Yes definitely. I joined the academy and loved that. We played loads of games. The opportunity that Nike has provided for us is incredible and I am so privileged and grateful to Nike for that platform. 

You’re now at Shamrock Rovers in the Irish league. How did that move come about?

Shamrock played the academy and the manager said he had heard a lot about me and after that he would like to sign me. I went for four days and the gaffer said he thought I had a future and so I went to live in Ireland. At first it was tough but everyone is so friendly over there and I am very settled now. The ultimate dream would be to get a move to England or Europe but for now I am more than happy at Shamrock and want to continue to learn.

What has Nike’s The Chance done for you?

Thanks to The Chance, I have become a man. Yes, I have had so much fun, seen so many things, made so many friends but ultimately I have been able to follow my dream. From that nervous young man, crying at the airport heading for London I have grown up. I now cook for myself – I love pasta and tuna! – and live in a totally different culture. I hope I have made my family back home very proud. 

What do you think of Nike’s The Chance campaign? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

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