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Grant Young drops in at Bafana training

Former Bafana Bafana striker Grant Young says South Africa can expect a youthful New Zealand to come at them guns blazing when the teams meet in an international soccer friendly in Auckland on Friday.

Young paid a visit to Bafana’s training session at the Takapuna sports grounds, north of Auckland, home to Takapuna AFC, a semi-professional soccer team, on Wednesday.

Young and his wife and children have lived in Auckland for 10 years.

“There are a lot of young players, so they’ll probably get a high intensity game,” Young said, looking on as South Africa were put through their paces in a chilly breeze.

“They’ll fight and try and give the guys a game. With the players South Africa have got, South Africa are probably favourites because New Zealand have had quite a few players pull out.

“There are a lot of younger players coming in. Not many of them have played senior first team football for the All Whites.”

Young spent much of his decorated career at Cape Town-based Hellenic, before moving overseas for a stint in Belgium.

He emigrated to New Zealand in 2004, and saw out his playing days with Auckland FC, for whom he appeared in two Fifa Club World Cup tournaments.

The first was in 2006, and it was a dismal campaign as Auckland lost every game, without scoring a single goal throughout the tournament.

Three years later, however, Young and Auckland City fared better and walked away with the scalp of African champions and representatives TP Mazembe of the Congo, with a 3-2 victory.

“When I left South Africa, I was about 32 or 33, and I basically came here and wasn’t going to play football, just take it easy and maybe play golf,” Young said.

“I got hooked into playing and ended up playing in two World Club champs which, if I had been in South Africa, I never would have played there.

“It was a different path, but there were some good times.”

Having retired from all forms of the game just last year, the 43-year-old now works as a publisher, and recently added a boy and a girl to his growing family, which has put down roots in New Zealand’s largest city.

* Sapa’s reporter is in New Zealand as a guest of the SA Football Association.


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