Sandows – born in Westbury, Johannesburg, on 12 February 1995 – has been plying his trade in Brazil for the past 10 years, spending eight years at Sao Paulo before joining Gremio at the age of 19, and will serve as a valuable member to the Olympic team during their stay in his adoptive ‘home’.
The 21-year-old, who has previously represented the national U-20 team under the tutelage of current U-23 assistant coach Thabo Senong, says he is ready to fight for a place in the team and believes he has a lot to offer, not only on the pitch but also in an advisory capacity.
“It’s been easy [settling into the camp] because they have been a very receptive group,” says Sandows. “I’m just going to fight for my spot – however the coach wants to put me in, whether it’s starting or on the bench. I’m here to help the South African team have a good campaign in the Olympics.
“For knowing the place – being there for 10 years – I can share some knowledge with the players; help them with the culture and stuff; show them how the players might think and approach the game. I think I can be vital in sharing that type of knowledge.”
The diminutive attacker also reveals he can slot in at different positions if needed, with his ability to use both feet an asset for Owen Da Gama’s troops.
“Playing as a number 10, or a striker, has been my role since I was young,” he adds. “But I can also play on the wing, both left and right sides. As I’ve said, wherever the coach wants to put me I’ll be happy to play.”
‘Ty’ will be particularly useful when South Africa face Brazil, which features Barcelona superstar Neymar in their tournament opener on 4 August, and has already revealed the severe pressure the hosts are putting themselves under.
“They’ve never won the [Olympic] gold medal so it’s very serious for a power nation like Brazil not winning a major football tournament,” he says. “They are taking it very seriously, hence they’ve called up players like Neymar.
“It’s a very serious tournament for them, especially playing it in Brazil, so the pressure is obviously on them and we have to try and use that to our advantage – put the pressure on them and try to have a good game – and we’ll see what the result is.”