ROBUST grassroots football development, teamed with a strong emphasis on skills development, is mandatory for the future growth, success and sustainability of the game in South Africa.
This is the message from the South African Breweries (SAB) which
has supported football for more than sixty years. The company invests in developing players as grassroots level, at intermediate and at coaching level through its three properties – the SAB League, Castle Lager Superstars and Carling Black Label coaches.
“SAB’s investment in football at grassroots to national level is entrenched in its conviction that socio-economic change can be brought to SA’s communities in this way. Football has a proven track record of playing a role in bringing positive change to people’s lives and to communities and SAB takes pride in playing a leadership role in this societal change,” says Vincent Maphai, SAB Executive Director Corporate Affairs and Transformation.
The emphasis on development from grassroots level and up is a sentiment shared by some of SA’s football top ranking officials and legends, including former Bafana coach and current BidVest Wits coach Clive Barker, SAFA president Kirsten Nematandani, SAFA vice-president Danny Jordaan, former Bafana Bafana coach and player Neil Tovey, and Sumayya Khan, COO at the Department of Sport and Recreation. Each of them spoke candidly about the challenges and future of football in the country during a panel discussion hosted by SAB today, little more than a month after the AFCON tournament, which saw Bafana Bafana bow out of the quarterfinals.
SAB took the opportunity to bring together some of South African football’s most distinguished and respected minds to begin constructive discussion on the way forward for the game; and to determine how it can play a more effective role through its football properties in achieving the game’s success.
Khan quoted former president Nelson Mandela when she said that sport is one of the most powerful unifiers. She acknowledged SAB’s contribution and the role the organisation has played in bringing about meaningful change in society through sport. Yet much remains to be done, beginning with the implementation of the National Sport and Recreation Plan which Khan said will act as the impetus for an integrated and co-ordinated approach to sports in South Africa.
Nematandani outlined his vision for football in South Africa, which is to be consistently ranked amongst the top three teams in Africa. He emphasised the importance of having a sustainable development pipeline that ensures talent doesn’t get lost along the way. “We cannot have a national team that includes players who have never played in junior tournaments,” Nematandani commented. “This will only happen if we have enough coaches, which is definitely not the case at the moment where one coach looks after 300 players.”
Barker echoed Nematandani’s sentiments when talking about the importance of coaching, saying that Gordon Igesund is the right man for the job of national team coach, and that league and regional coaches should look to him for guidance.
Jordaan highlighted the fact that South Africa should take advantage of being part of the BRICS nations, which is increasingly where the world’s major sporting events are being held. He admitted that people expect much more from SA because of the way we delivered the World Cup but conceded that the same goes for many teams in the world, including several in England. So where are English teams falling short and what can South Africa learn from them? “Investment in junior football leagues on one hand, and a focus on coaching on the other”, says Jordaan. These issues need to be urgently addressed before football in South Africa can move forward. “We also need to allow our players to play – participating in junior world cup competitions, for example, is very important.”
As a former player and coach, Neil Tovey agreed with the other panellists about the importance of focused training for young player. “Basics should be taught at a young age, which is why coaching at all levels is so important.” Tovey also spoke about creating aspirations for young players within existing structures. “Going through the ranks and seeing what you have to strive for is vitally important for young players,” says Tovey. He mentioned that junior leagues have been crying out for knowledge, which the Castle Lager League has started to provide. “Already we can see the passion and enthusiasm in the league which we haven’t seen before and which is vital for a successful team.”
The SAB League, which each year touches the lives of more than 26 000 youth across SA, has been the starting block for many of today’s greatest players participating in the Premier Soccer League, the national team and serving on the international football stage. This is evidence that SA’s third division league has brought enormous change to the lives of the youth, their dependents and communities.
The SAB League is one of three football properties SAB uses to nurture the success of football in South Africa and underpins its more than six decade long association with the peoples’ game.
SAB’s support and commitment to football in South Africa takes an end-to-end approach – from the youth at grassroots level to the country’s national heroes – and incorporates a strong emphasis on skills development.
This includes the Castle Lager Superstars and Carling Black Label Cup Coach the Coaches.
Castle Lager built on the work done by the SAB League, partnering with SAFA last year to launch the Castle Lager Superstars programme, which seeks to increase the future talent pool of South Africa’s national teams by identifying talent within the SAB League and training top grassroots players for the future of both professional soccer and Bafana Bafana.
Meanwhile, Carling Black label has focused on uplifting coaches, working with the SAB League to identify top coaches and put them through a training programme which will enable them to transition to a higher league, while promoting coaches as educators and role models in communities.