Johannesburg - Former Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates midfielder Jabu Mahlangu has urged Bafana Bafana coach Stuart Baxter to start selecting younger players.
“If there is anything we learnt from France’s World Cup winning squad it’s that we need to believe in young players. We need to give young players a chance,” he said.
“If you deserve to play for a national team at the age of 16 or 17, you should be given a chance.”
“Pelé played at the World Cup at 17. Look at Kylian Mbappé – he is still a teenager; he is 19 and was already one of the most talked about players on the biggest football stage.
“Here in South Africa, when you are 19 or 24, they say you are a youngster, but by the time you are 25 or 28, it’s already too late.”
Mahlangu joined Chiefs at the age of 19 and captured the hearts of many supporters with his dribbling skills, which led to his being nicknamed “Shuffle”.
With the SA Football Association promoting Vision 2022, which advocates the development of young players, it should be the right move for young players to be thrown into the deep end.
The former Bafana Bafana player said most of France’s players were playing at that level for the first time and still succeeded.
The 38-year-old said that, when players were not given a chance while they were still young, they may never play to their full potential.
“If you are talented and you are 15, 17 or 18 and you deserve to play at the top league, you should be given a chance. But as a coach, you wait for this young talented man because of his age and you say he is young; at 24, he has already lost hope.”
Mahlangu, who is now a soccer analyst, said a coach could afford to lose with youngsters, but in two or three years, they may start to see good results.
In May, Baxter called up Maritzburg United’s Fortune Makaringe (25) and Siphesihle Ndlovu (21) during the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations cup tournament played in Polokwane.
Other young players were Pirates’ Lyle Foster (17), Chiefs’ prospect Ryan Moon (21), Luther Singh (21) of Portuguese side Braga B and Maritzburg’s Lebohang Maboe (23), who is now at Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Brazilians announced their capture of Maboe on Thursday.
Bafana Bafana were eliminated 4-3 by Madagascar at the first hurdle via a penalty shoot-out.