No ground broken

2014-07-23 00:00

TEN months after plans to construct a state-of-the-art football academy at Durban’s Hoy Park were first announced by the South African Football Association (Safa), there is still no broken ground.

That news came courtesy of Safa president Danny Jordaan at October’s Soccerex African Forum hosted at Moses Mabhida Stadium, and with it came a sense of optimism that football development at grassroots level had finally been made a priority.

Initially, local government through deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala had said that the project was expected to be signed off at a council level by the end of October 2013. Head of logistics and operations at IEC Football Events — the international company largely responsible for the funding of the initially anticipated R70 million project — David Broomhall said at the time that construction would take 10 months once the green light had been given by government.

But all has not gone according to plan and Hoy Park will no longer be the venue for the academy. Instead, the King’s Park Northern Precinct will house the construction after the eThekwini’s Executive Committee deemed Hoy Park unsuitable due to strategies linked to the Inner City Regeneration processes.

“It is true that we have not been able to meet the initial timelines, but the size of the project and its importance to the city and the province meant that everything had to run its natural course,” Broomhall told The Witness in Durban yesterday at the launch of the U19 Durban International Football tournament, which will run from July 31 to August 9. “It is nobody’s fault,” he said.

The good news from Broomhall was that he expected an announcement to be made soon after the tournament confirming construction of the academy at King’s Park and he expected construction to start as early as September or October.

“The designs are laid out and the preparations are ongoing,” he said. “This project still has the support of all stakeholders from local to provincial government and the department of Sports and Recreation.”

The U19 tournament, said Broomhall, was proof that a lot of work had gone on behind the scenes over the past months.

“This tournament is directly linked to the academy in that some 4 000 kids have been viewed in the scouting process [for the KZN U19 team],” said Broomhall. “At the end of the year, the scouting process starts again and the academy — which will house U13, U15, U17 and U19 teams — will benefit.”

Safa’s KZN Provincial Executive Committee chairperson Velaphi Ku­bheka said that while the academy was a priority, it was out of Safa’s hands until local government had concluded its business on the matter.

“It is obviously something that we would like resolved as soon as possible,” Kubheka said.

“It is very important that we have this structure in place so that we can use it as a feeder to our national and professional teams.”

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