SA places little value on growing star players

2011-06-11 15:14

The standard of soccer in South Africa has been steadily declining over the years due to very little emphasis being placed on development.

What little effort has been made has been channelled towards an ineffective academy model that is very expensive and very limiting in the number of players it can accommodate.

South Africa also suffers from a lack of a national development strategy that ensures uniformity in the development of our players and that maximises our inherent raw talent and style of play.

Many football academies have sprung up around the country, many of which have proved to be nothing more than just moneymaking schemes with little regard for the quality development of players.

They charge parents exorbitant fees that few can afford, with very little emphasis on developing the technical faculties of the players.

This leaves a lot of young people and parents disillusioned with the game – and a lot of talent is being lost in the process.

Professional clubs have also invested hundreds of millions of rands in their development structures, with only a few realising any meaningful returns.

A lot of clubs still rely on massive open trials where the most talented players and not players with potential are recruited.

But experts agree that talent accounts for only 10% of what is needed to succeed in any career.

The rest is dedication, determination and a good attitude.

Measuring these attributes in young players is difficult indeed and cannot be done over a few days of open trials in which thousands of players are taking part.

Therefore a concerted departure from the current way of doing business is called for.

Safa has pledged to invest the profits from the 2010 Fifa World Cup in improving development structures and talent identification methods.

One hopes that whatever development strategies are adopted will be well thought out and will benefit as many young people as possible.

It is through providing young people with an opportunity to play the game of soccer that the true development of the game will take place.

When hundreds of thousands of children have such an opportunity, real talent emerges and late boomers do not fall through the cracks.

Those players that really rise above the rest can then be recruited into regional development squads and ultimately into academies.

The US provides a great model for massive participation in football through the Little League Soccer programmes.

Millions of young girls play soccer and every child who is willing to play can play.

The results are evident in the strength of the US women’s soccer team.

However, the development of a large cadre of properly trained coaches and administrators who will work at grassroots level is paramount to any soccer development strategy.

Spain, for example, has not risen to European and World dominance by chance.

The country has over 30 000 coaches who hold at least a Uefa C licence and above. Most of these coaches work as volunteers at local level for little or no pay.

Spain has a uniform style of playing the game nicknamed the “Tika-Taka” – which loosely translates to pass and move and is based on great technical skill and tactical awareness.

The famous Spanish football correspondent, Guillem Ballague, put it succinctly when he said: “In the 1990s Spain decided to keep the ball and no one has taken it from us since.”

When it comes to raw talent and skill, South Africa, dare I say, far surpasses Spain.

It is in the identification, development and nurturing of this talent that South Africa is still in the Dark Ages.

European teams also place a major emphasis on investment in their scouting structures. Some clubs are known to have hundreds of scouts on their payrolls placed throughout the world tracking and recruiting players of exceptional talent into their clubs.

A UK club that will remain anonymous has at any given time approximately 7?500 players under observation from all over the world ranging from seven to 17 years of age.

While it is more luck than talent that determines who makes it as a professional player, as is the case in South Africa, we will remain also-rans in the race for international football domination, a letdown for the abundant talent with which we have been endowed if we do not invest more of our time, energy and money in development.

» Mokoena is managing member of Aludar Sports and is a young coach who spent two years studying for an Msc in Sports Management at Worcester University while coaching the university’s soccer team. He holds a Level 2 English FA coaching badge

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