School soccer is dead – Safa

2010-12-09 14:29

School soccer is dead, and development needs to be revived, according to the SA Football Association (Safa).

“We have built the walls of a house in the past without laying any foundation. We have forgotten about the grass roots,” Safa’s technical director, Serame Letsoaka, said today.

He was speaking during the announcement of a R40 million cash injection by FNB to develop grass roots soccer in a three-year legacy programme.

“Now that FNB has come to the party, we can address these faults,” said Letsoaka, adding that development had to be continuous and not a once-off.

Of the R40 million sponsorship, R18 million will go towards the national under-17 boys’ (Amajambos) and girls’ (Bantwana) teams, and R15 million towards five artificial turfs in Pietermaritzburg, Mthatha, George, Thohoyandou and Kimberley.

The rest will be used to launch nationwide soccer school festivals involving invited African teams, and a soccer clashes programme similar to the popular televised rugby classic clashes.

“We have to develop players starting from the six-year-olds for future professional clubs and for future national teams,” said Letsoaka.

He acknowledged the failures of the national under-17 and under-20 sides to qualify for their African and World Youth championships.

“We even failed to qualify for the under-20 Cosafa Cup, which we have dominated for the past five years. It is not good enough.”

He believed that although the road ahead would be tough, the sponsorship would help solve the problem.

Letsoaka was disturbed that no white players were coming through the ranks to play for Bafana Bafana.

“Where are the white boys?” he asked. “There is a huge pool of talent from white kids that has been forgotten and we need to identify them.”

Safa president Kirsten Nematandani said he was still waiting for a report on what had gone wrong with the under-17 and under-20 sides.

“Part of the problem is that sport at school has become history. There are a lot of challenges ahead, but we need to continue a legacy for our youth after a successful World Cup,” he said.

Welcoming the multimillion-rand sponsorship, Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula said it was long overdue that something was done for the country’s youth.

“We are failing the youth of our country. We need to keep them occupied positively and off the streets otherwise we will produce criminals and drug addicts.

“That is not acceptable. We need sport and soccer at school level that will impact in a positive way.”

Mbalula questioned why Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs had failed in African club competitions to teams from countries with fewer resources.

“We have the best league in Africa in the PSL, yet we lose to teams from countries where they have less facilities and resources.

“With our resources we should be on top. We are not, and something is wrong. It’s a lack of development. We need to start producing stars again and that can only be achieved by development.”

Mbalula said sport was a nation builder. He said the sponsorship was a great investment in the youth that was welcomed with “open arms”.

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