Thabo Dladla: Maximal football soldier


The history of youth football development in South Africa cannot be complete without the mentioning of Coach Thabo Dladla.

Coach Dladla is a proven football academic, player developer and a hard-core Maximal training disciple.

FARPost Technical Study Group (TSG) looks at the coaching life of this pioneering technical-tactical colossal from the Kwa-Zulu Natal.

1. Who is Coach Thabo?

Thabo Dladla was born and bred in KZN, where he completed all his education. He has had three coaching spells at AmaZulu FC over the last 20 years.

As an ardent football student and a curious coaching breed, it was only proper for him to follow an educational path. This led him to complete his qualifications in B.A Human Movement Studies.

2. Dumitru Maximalist

It was only proper for Coach Thabo to be nurtured and developed by the iconic Ted “Professor” Dumitru. The Professor took it upon himself to bring Coach Thabo up to speed with the modern and advanced coaching lifestyle called Maximal training.

Coach Thabo developed a serious connection with Dumitru, that encapsulated in the coach travelling to Gauteng to amass coaching knowledge and meeting with likeminded coaches from other provinces, Sudesh Singh, Mandla Mazibuko, Sam Mbatha and Cavin Johnson.

3. Maritzburg City project

The coach was later invited to join the Maritzburg City project. At City, he collaborated successfully with Reginald ‘Reggie’ Shelembe, and the pair constructed a scintillating, fashionable and immaculate team that played top draw football.

City scouting strategy saw the recruitment of technically gifted players from KZN and all over the country, the likes of Andile Cele, Mbulelo Old-John Mabizela, Jimmy Tau, Mlungisi Gumbi, Tshepo Mashishi, Nhlanhla Ndlovu and Shane Morrison.

4. 2000 Olympiad

As a knowledgeable and influential coach, Coach Dladla was the National Under-23 Assistant to Shakes Mashaba at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Together with Mashaba, they spearheaded an African U23 qualification and an eventual Olympic participation.

That generation of the AmaGlugGlug side played with technical swag, composed tactical perfection and outlined the real blueprint of a typical South African football style. Amongst the chief representative of that brilliant team was Stanton Fredericks, Jabu Mahlangu, Siyabonga Nomvethe and Benedict McCarthy, just to list a few.

5. Izichwe Youth Football

Over the years Coach Thabo has transformed lives and careers of many individuals and players, by combining his experience from Maximal training and City’s NFD ventures. Hence the Izichwe Football Academy idea came into fruition, where he structured a simple but complex training programme for young players from age 10 to 19 in his neighbourhood.

By using a principled maximal training methods, Coach Thabo’s players reveal dynamic technical supremacy, adorable ball manipulation techniques, coherent application of basic to complex motor skills and advanced neurological acceptance to adaptation of the football challenges of a modern player.

In a study conducted by Alegi and Timbs (2019), titled ‘The Izichwe Football Club: Youth, Sport and Masculinity in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, the report explored how community-based coaches fused Zulu cultural inheritances with specialised sports knowledge to train young athletes, assist them with secondary education and promote a civic-minded masculinity. By combining elite athletic training with the programme’s underlying masculine rhetoric, coaches instilled confidence and self-esteem in their protégés, fostering their growth and development.

In so doing, it confirmed the unique features of the youth programme and highlighted the greater need to accelerate the usage of indigenous languages, in coaching and transferring the cognitive skills properly to our young players.

6. Conclusion

The life and coaching journey of Coach Thabo is firmly encrypted in the hearts of the Izichwe youth potentials and christened with the blood of Dumitru, Shelembe and Piwe Sigwili in heaven.

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By FARPost Technical Study Group

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