Ronaldo’s scout scours KwaZulu-Natal for rough diamonds

2014-01-19 14:01

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One of the world’s most respected football scouts is scouring rural KwaZulu-Natal for “raw talent” as part of a new football academy system aimed at helping fix South African football’s broken pipeline.

Paulo Cardoso (47) the former Sporting Lisbon coach and scout who discovered Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo at the age of 12, is selecting players for an international Under-19 tournament in Durban in August.

The tournament is part of the build-up and selection process for the R100?million football academy and international sports centre, which will be opened in the city next year under Cardoso’s leadership.

The academy, which will house 88 players, is sponsored by the KwaZulu-Natal government and the eThekwini Municipality, as well as Swedish TV channel IEC in Sports.

It will be part of an world-class sports centre with accommodation, training and medical and recreational facilities aimed at drawing international teams for their preseason training sessions and winter breaks.

The centre, at Hoy Park, which is close to Durban’s beachfront, is intended to be the revenue spinner that will subsidise the academy component.

The 25 players who make the squad for the Under-19 tournament – which will feature the KwaZulu-Natal team, a Safa national Under-19 team and teams from six European and South American outfits – will go into camp from April to August.

The teams involved, who will be named on January 30, are understood to include one top Argentinian side, one from Brazil and one each from Spain, England, Portugal and Italy.

Negotiations are under way with two Durban schools, which will enrol the KwaZulu-Natal squad and, come 2015, all of those who make the academy through a selection process that will involve schools and clubs.

The centre and the academy are modelled on the Sporting Lisbon system, which Cardoso helped introduce.

The centre is the brainchild of basketballer and IT operator Carlos Catalino, who has spent the past eight years putting the project together.

“We are now very close to getting this off the ground,” said Catalino, who is on the road with Cardoso and a team from the KwaZulu-Natal sports department.

“This centre will help us provide the opportunity to young players to be groomed to a level where they can play for the finest teams in the world. We will also ensure their education, give them the financial and life skills they need to make sure that they aren’t left destitute at the end of their playing careers.”

This week, Cardoso and his entourage toured Ulundi and Newcastle.

They were accompanied by Home Affairs officials to help ensure that no overaged players are slipped into the system by coaches keen to make a quick buck.

The 140 youngsters from whom the eventual squad will be selected will all undergo medical tests to ascertain their age.

Cardoso said he had already uncovered one “rough diamond” at Ulundi who had the potential to “play for any team in the world”.

“The talent is out there,” said Cardoso, who will spent the next five years with the project.

“That is what the academy is about – identifying the talent and helping create the finished product.”

»For more on Paolo Cardoso’s relationship with World Footballer of the Year, Christiano Ronaldo, go to

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