LONG ROAD: Rivaldo Coetzee

Rivaldo Coetzee and Eric Mathoho will rekindle their Bafana Bafana defensive partnership at the Olympics next month.

And it’s good news for Owen da Gama’s U23 squad ahead of their August 4 opener against Rio de Janeiro hosts Brazil.

The pair have formed a pretty formidable pairing for Shake Mashaba’s senior side in recent times in the test against Neymar and company, SA soccer fans could not have asked for a better pairing.

At 19, Rivaldo is already a stalwart for Bafana and Ajax Cape Town.

And since he started playing in the same side as his father at 13 in Kakamas, he won’t be overawed by taking on the hosts.

Commanding centreback Rivaldo says: “I have always wanted to be a footballer.

“My father was one. He played amateur level.

“I would go with him to every game he played.

“He was a goalkeeper, so I would play behind his poles with my own ball and with my friends.

“We are always together, whenever there is something happening in football he used to take me with, even if I didn’t want to go.

“I would go, with my own ball so that I would keep busy while he is doing his own thing.

“It’s because of him that I am here today.”

Mathoho is one of the over-age players in the squad and the 26-year-old is looking forward to playing alongside his young teammates on the Olympic stage in Brazil.

The 1.98m tall “Tower” says: “This thing of young and old doesn’t exist in football.

“We are all equal. There are 18 and 19-year-olds who are playing at the highest level all over the world.

“They’re able to command the back. So there isn’t that they can’t do it because they’re young.

“You learn from whoever you play with. I am learning from them just as they are learning from me.”

The Kaizer Chiefs star says the controversial inclusion of club teammate Itumeleng Khune will also help the defence.

He says of the former Bafana Bafana captain: “Khune is someone who is always communicating with the team so that you don’t switch off.

“Knowing that there is someone like that behind you keeps you composed.”