This afternoon’s Nedbank Cup final between Ajax Cape Town and Mamelodi Sundowns in Port Elizabeth (kick-off 3pm) is such a stage - and, for 20-year-old Riyaad Norodien and 24-year-old Khama Billiat, it’s the perfect shop window.
Ajax starlet Norodien has taken the domestic game by storm. After just a month of top-flight action, he is the player of the moment. His pace, confidence and skill have troubled opposition defenders - and marked him as a player for the future. Norodien has ambitions of making it big in Europe - and, this Cup final, is an opportunity for the kid from Kensington to demonstrate what all the fuss is about.
Sundowns winger Billiat has always been highly rated. The Zimbabwean made a big-money move from Ajax to the Pretoria club two years ago, but is only now starting to regain the form that made him one of the PSL’s brightest talents.
He has made no secret of the fact that he would love to play overseas - and, this afternoon, in one of the biggest days of the local football calender, the exciting player has a chance to prove that he has what it takes.
It’s all about big-match temperament, about recognising the big stage, and using it as a kick-start to bigger, brighter things. Norodien was just two years old in March 1997 when a young Benni McCarthy, in just his second game in the top-flight, netted two sensational goals to destroy Kaizer Chiefs. The rest, as they say, is history… McCarthy went on to become an international star.
Norodien and Billiat have such a platform Saturday.
“This will be my first-ever Cup final since I’ve played football in the PSL,” said Billiat. “You can understand why this match is such a big deal for me. I’m really looking forward to the match and would like for it to be a memorable one.
“But, of course, the team’s objective on the day is more important than my personal desire and I want to contribute positively.”
Ajax played out a 2-2 draw with Orlando Pirates last week, their final league match of the season. The Cape club’s coach, Roger de Sa, used the match to rest some players, allowing others to get some game time ahead of the Cup final.
“It was great preparation playing against Pirates, leading up to the final against Sundowns,” said De Sa. “There are some similarities in the two teams.
“Both are full of quality players and they are going to come at you. It was good to see that we managed to cope with some of it (against Pirates). Also, we played pretty well on the break and we looked good. We had a lot of opportunities.
“Overall, I was happy, but obviously there are areas that we’ve got to improve on. But I believe that we’ve got the strength in our team for the final.
“We’ll be a little better in certain areas… and, hopefully, with the return of Tashreeq Morris, Toriq Losper, Rivaldo Coetzee and Abbubaker Mobara and a few others we’ll be even stronger.”
Norodien certainly can’t contain his excitement with regard to Saturday’s big game. “We played well against Pirates and that was vital preparation for the final against Sundowns,” he said. “This is my first senior Cup final… it’s a great feeling. We’ll definitely be motivated, we’ll give our all and try to bring the trophy to the Mother City.”
Original source: Stage set for Billiat and Norodien