THE South African Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan says development programmes and junior soccer academies are crucial in producing players.The 2016 Safa SAB U21 National Championships started at the University of Limpopo in Polokwane on 9 July and run until 16 July and Jordaan said he believes that if young players are properly developed and junior academies are properly run, there will be stronger national teams in the future.The largest and most successful football development league in the country has established itself as the most trusted football hub for professional clubs, producing household names such as Andile Jali, Reneilwe Letsholonyane and Themba Zwane.The launch of the tournament, held at SAB World of Beer, was attended by SAB League graduates, Themba Zwane (now a Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder) and Thabo Senong (National U23 head coach).A draw was held to mark the battle lines for the tournament. All nine provinces, plus a university select side - University Sport South Africa - will be represented by the “cream of the crop” selected from the 30 000 players nationwide that participate in the SAB League.In line with the SAB League’s commitment to football development, 20 match officials, who will officiate during the tournament, will undergo a week of training. This will be conducted by qualified technical and physical instructors including former Fifa referee, Sylvester Ndaba. Also at the launch was Mojalefa Selumetse, a beneficiary of SAB’s latest innovation to the SAB League that sees selected players given an opportunity to pursue a career of their choice at any accredited tertiary institution.Selumetse, who is completing his final year in education, was one of the players that assisted Free State to two consecutive SAB U21 National Championships. He expressed his appreciation to SAB for the significant contribution they made in his life. “The SAB League has changed my life in a manner that words cannot explain. My talent was discovered through this league and I am now a few months away from being a university graduate thanks to the study assistance programme by SAB. I am looking forward to graduating and becoming an educated professional footballer.” SAB head of sustainability and transformation, Mpho Sadiki, said 2016 has been one of the most exciting seasons of the SAB League since the start of the brewer’s partnership with Safa.“We have been innovative in our commitment to football development with various initiatives such as the SAB League skills camps, higher education bursaries and player data monitoring. “This is a positive direction that SAB has taken and we look forward to an exciting finale of the season at the national championships,” Sadiki said.