In April 2021, Gerald Sithole signed his first professional contract with Gillingham Football Club and subsequently came off the bench to make his debut against Northampton Town on 24 April.
Gerald represented the Kent FA Representative Team at both U16 and U18 level, and we spoke with him about his time playing for Kent.
“I was honoured to be called out to play for Kent FA when I was 16 years old. I had been playing for Kennington FC and Kent schools at that time. Getting an opportunity to represent my county was a dream come true. I felt really privileged to be given that opportunity and it fuelled my hunger to better myself. This pushed my desire to work even harder towards my professional goal.
“My experience playing for Kent FA was one of the best experiences of my grassroots football journey. I remember the first game I played for Kent FA. I was nervous because going into a team and not knowing anyone is always going to be a struggle at first. But getting into the changing rooms with all the football kits laid out like what they do for professional footballers, getting the coach to the game as a team and being treated like I was already a professional, eased my nerves completely and made me even hungrier to get out there and show them what I could do.
"During this journey I was even fortunate enough to be called up to play in the U18s final, which to get a call up like that was a great achievement for me. I ended up playing the full 90 minutes and getting a goal, although that goal was probably given as an own goal but I will still claim it. However, we did end up winning the game 3-0, and getting to lift the trophy was a proud moment for me.
"Coming up to the end of that Kent season I was looking forward to the presentation just so I could be around that scenario. When the day came, I was not really expecting to get an award because I was called up near the mid end of the season, so I had roughly missed the first half of the season. But then for me to get the Players’ Player Award was a very big achievement. It meant that in the short time I was there I was able to make a very good impression not just for myself but for my coaches and teammates as well.
"I would like to give a massive thanks to the coaches, Ian Varley and Lee Suter and the whole of the county team, for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an experience and a taster of professional football. It really boosted my confidence and pushed me to better myself. It gave me the confidence that I needed to get a Gillingham scholarship. I am just at the beginning and I want to continue to work hard and become the best version on myself that I can possibly be.
"Once again thank you to the Kent FA for such an experience."
Gerald is the latest in a long line of players that have represented Kent FA to go on to achieve recognition higher in the game. Sam McCallum is currently playing for Coventry City in EFL League One, Ross Johnstone represented the England Schools FA and Hameed Ishola has signed a professional contract with Peterborough United, who have just been promoted to the EFL Championship.
Kent FA are proud to have played a part in Gerald’s road to signing his first professional contract and hope to keep offering opportunities to many more players seeking to progress to the professional game.