United step up their youth development

2013-09-05 00:00

YOUNG footballers in Pietermaritzburg now have a realistic shot of making it into the PSL without having to up-sticks and move to Johannesburg.

Premier League outfit Maritzburg United have stepped up their youth development with the establishment of an under-19 Colts team.

The team will be headed up by Maritzburg College coach Dan Haswell who will be assisted by Ismail Kajee of Carter High School.

Haswell is passionate about youth football, and one of his charges, College captain Bandile Shandu, made his PSL debut for The Team of Choice last season while still only in Grade 11.

The Colts team will also give Shandu a chance to train when the school soccer season ends.

“We’ll also be working very closely with the coach [Ernst Middendorp], and he’ll be able to come and see the side whenever he wants,” Haswell told The Witness.

The goal of the team was to produce players who will fit in easily in the first team should they make the step up, and Haswell felt it was a fantastic opportunity for youngsters in Pietermaritzburg.

The team will play in the SAB Regional League, but Haswell said the goal wouldn’t be to gain promotion to the Vodacom League, but rather to give youngsters a springboard to the first team.

Haswell said: “I’m very passionate about youth football. I believe that if we give these youngsters a chance, they will make it. Pietermaritzburg has a wealth of talent.

“Shandu and [Philani] Zulu are the only players in the club that are from Pietermaritzburg. When you go to United games, I always hear people asking if they’re playing. The Colts team could be the pipeline of bringing local players through to the first team, which could translate into bums on seats.

“The Colts team is a very exciting development, and I officially started working on it [on Monday].”

The team would be selected from players who have been chosen to represent KZN, and all players will be registered before the start of the SAB Regional League.

If the under-19 side is successful, Haswell said they would look at how to grow it in the future and maybe introduce an under-17 and an under-15 side. “Imagine a United side with three, four, or five players that are from Maritzburg. That would bring supporters to the games.

“If Barcelona can do it and be the best side in Spain, why can’t anyone else?”

Haswell is also looking at building a closer relationship between the club and schools.

Haswell, who completed his Caf B licence last year, said what attracted him most was getting the chance to work with Middendorp, adding he would work very closely with Middendorp, so that players coming through get to understand his football philosophy.

Middendorp told The Witness that he would do about 35% of the work with the players, with Haswell spending most of the time with them, and some of the club’s technical staff also helping out, like goalkeeper coach Arthur Bartman.

“Ideally, every year there should be on average two players that go from the academy into the first team squad,” Middendorp said of what he hoped he would see.

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