ALTHOUGH he will be too old to attend the under-21 World Cup next year, young EP hockey star Michael Abrahams is overjoyed at helping South Africa clinch the African Cup of Nations title.
In Johannesburg at the weekend, SA defeated Egypt in a thrilling final, winning 4-2 in a shootout after the scores were 1-1 following extra time. They also beat Egypt 1-0 in the league phase.
The outcome gives SA a spot in the u-21 World Cup in India next year, but ironically Abrahams will not be able to sample the fruits of his efforts.
Nonetheless, the second-year NMMU logistics student said it was a memorable win as they achieved their objective of taking the title.
"Going into the tournament, our goal was definitely to win it," Abrahams said yesterday. "But playing against African countries is very unpredictable and for quite a few of us it was our first tournament against these teams, so we didn't quite know what to expect.
"It was a very tight win over Egypt because they are a tough team, very hard, very physical. But we stuck to our structures, kept it very tight, and came through in the end."
The triumph marked an excellent year for Abrahams, who was also part of the NMMU men's team which retained the EP premier league and came second in the SA varsity week in July. It is little surprise that Abrahams has emerged as a player to watch because hockey runs through the Abrahams veins and brother Clyde, older by 10 years, has been an EP and SA hockey stalwart.
Reflecting on that, Abrahams said: "Our relationship has always been good. Growing up, I always looked up to him as one of my hockey heroes and watching him play on TV, it was always exciting stuff. You always wanted to be there where he was."
Now, though, they find themselves on opposite sides of the fence, with Michael playing for NMMU and Clyde turning out for Lakeside Cavaliers.
"It's not the easiest thing to do playing against him," Abrahams said, "and supporters like to make a big thing about it. It's a tough battle out there but at the end of the day we are still best buddies."
After attending Greenwood Primary, Abrahams went to Grey High where his hockey developed further after his experience of playing for Lakeside league teams.
With a busy year of hockey behind him, Abrahams says he aims to focus on his studies, but will continue to play at a club and provincial level.
"I want to get my degree done and then I will focus on trying to break into the national set-up because one of my dreams is to play in the Olympics," Abrahams said.
With Rio de Janeiro looming in four years' time, Abrahams could time his run perfectly once he has handled his academic challenge.