Former FN Rangers footballers, Maurice Theart, 18, from Table View, and Luke Smidt, 18, from Athlone, say they are ready for their new challenges on the soccer pitch.
Maurice, a striker, joined the University of Arkansas Rich Mountain in America, on a study scholarship, three weeks ago.
His former teammate, promising goalkeeper, Luke, joined Cape Town City’s Diski Challenge (MDC) a fortnight ago.
Luke started in both of the Citizen’s MDC wins against Black Leopards and Baroka FC earlier this month.
An economics development student at UWC, Luke, says he started his football journey for Avondale Athletico, in Athlone, at the age of six before he joined Ajax Cape Town from 2012 up until 2017.
He ran out for FN Rangers from 2017 until City invited him to attend trials earlier this year.
“It’s been great. My parents were happy when they heard I made the team. In the next two years I see myself playing for the PSL team,” he says.
“For other youngsters in my area I say they should follow their dreams and never stop believing,” he says.
Both Luke and Maurice were a part of FN Rangers’ under-17 Knockout Challenge team last year and also took part in this year’s Bayhill under-19 Premier Cup.
Maurice started his football journey at Table View at the age of eight, before moving to Sunningdale Football Club at the beginning of 2018 and by July last year, he was signed by FN Rangers’ Motsepe League side.
While at Sunningdale, Maurice was selected by former Sunningdale coach, Jerome Seherie, to join Ikapa United’s touring team to the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup in the US. The team consisted of youngsters selected from across the city.
Although they were knocked out in the group stages following defeats against eventual champs, Tigres from Mexico, New York City and England’s Liverpool FC, Maurice’s performance impressed the University of Arkansas’ head coach, Brian Byrd.
When he landed back in SA, Byrd emailed Maurice’s parents the paperwork with a 50% scholarship offer.
Although excited with the opportunity, it took a massive effort just to raise funds for the previous year’s Dr Pepper Dallas Cup trip where he had to work a part-time job and sell drawings he painted from photographs donated by several people.
Maurice’s mother, Cresna Theart, got retrenched three years ago, while his dad, Stephanus Francois Theart’s salary got sliced by 25% due to retrenchments and restructuring. But, rather than giving up, his mother went to more than 40 restaurants across the city delivering raffle tickets, and they were friendly enough to help.
Cresna says they have raised enough for at least two years of her son’s study fees and while he should worry about his studies and football, they will do the rest.
The youngster, whose dream is to become a professional soccer player, in an appreciation video he sent from America, says the sky’s the limit.
“I’m super excited in joining the soccer team and I’m willing to work extremely hard on and off the field.
“None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for my parents who sacrificed everything to help me raise funds no matter what the circumstances were.
“Last but not least, nothing is possible without God.”
In an interview with the Tabletalk, Maurice says he hopes to play during the semi-pro summer league, pass his associate (undergraduate) degree with good grades and sign a pro contract within the next two to three years.
“I work and study hard on and off the field, and rest when I must rest.
“But for me the key is to be self disciplined and to believe in myself no matter what the circumstances.
“Education is an important part of a footballer’s life in case of severe injuries or after retirement,” he says.
Maurice, who is inspired by Portugal national captain, Cristiano Ronaldo, says the three weeks he’s been with the university has been phenomenal.
“I am truly blessed to be where I am in my life,” he says.
Cresna says the Theart family has three sons, including Maurice, who play soccer, and every Saturday they are out on the field supporting each other.
She says Maurice’s continuous hard work, belief in his dream, his humble and kind nature and faith in God are truly inspirational.
“He eats, dreams and lives for soccer. Maurice has so much passion for soccer, that often he would play a full match for the under-18s on a Saturday morning and then in the afternoon, he would play a full match for the senior team too.”