June 16: The reflection of the state of youth football development

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Today marks another historic moment in the political ramifications of the South African child—— The 1976 Soweto uprisings, in which gallant forces of the youth brigade took to the streets to protest the unfair usage of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in our motherland.

At the crust of their unwavering fight was the brutal contest with the “Bantu Education System” and its destructive apparatus in the bigger scheme of things within the Apartheid machinery fabric.

The Bantu Education system wasn’t much better. It featured separate schools and universities, poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms and inadequately trained teachers, resulting in a lack of quality education for black children. The Bantu Education Policy was designed to ‘train’ Africans for their role in the new apartheid society. This African role was one of the worker, labourer and servant only (History and Politics, 2008).

Synonymus with the times and period of Bantu Education system, youth football in South Africa is set-up to fail and surrender, with poor infrastructure, lack of administration, absence of visionary youth football curriculum, inadequately prepared youth coaches, in-fighting between the South African Football Association (SAFA, the FA) and its associate members, lack of sponsorship and blatant disregard of corporate business principles in general.

FARPost Investigation Unit looks at the sad reality of the state of junior, youth and grassroots football and ask the following relevant questions:

– Has the youth football emancipation and its strategy changed to address the interest of our young players post-1976?

– Can we be proud to celebrate this day in a manner befitting the intentions of the youth of that era?

– Is the youth football state in SA reminiscent of the current youth in our land?

– Have those in charge of the game done enough to accelerate the fight and aspirations of the youth of today and yester-years?

– Where are we in comparison with our counterparts in Africa in terms of youth football?

– Can we be proud of the product of youth football that Mzansi is currently experiencing?

– Where are the custodians of youth football education or instructors?

– Where is the government oversight role?

In unpacking this horrific state of football affairs, FARPost is comforted by the words of Steve Biko, who uttered the following, “In a bid for change, we have to take off our coats, be prepared to lose our comfort and security, our jobs and positions of prestige, and our families… A struggle without casualties is no struggle.”

Youth football structures

Upon a disastrous campaign at the 2000 European Championships were Germany failed to go beyond the group stages, the German Football Association (DFB), had to do a serious introspection. Its leadership embarked on a painful road to self-scrutinize, indulge in a critical metarmorphosis and strategic unfolding of their plans.

DFB and its league, began a new collective program of football building, youth football progression and roadmap to football excellence. Fundamental to their intentions was to formalize policies, plans and structure reporting mechanisms with full backing of all members within the association. The final product was a World Cup trophy in 2014 in Brazil.

In contrast, the football administration and leadership in our country is disorganized, fragmented, polluted and rotten to its eternal core. The open in-fighting of SAFA and South African Sports Football Association (SASFA) was a classic case of territorial injustice by the two custodians of youth football.

This brutal and aggressive fight led to a chaotic administration of school sport events and a catastrophic retreat (disinvestment) of major sponsorship.

The truth of the situation remains, youth football lack credible administration and leadership capable of ushering the youth game into the next level.

Whilst we acknowledge the success of the Germans, our product is far better than theirs, if we clean our administrative deficiencies.

SAFA-PSL disconnection

In March 2011, the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH (German Football League) released a report titled “10 Years of Academies: Talent pools of top-level German Football.”

This report laid bare the workings and sacrifices that the football leaders in the country came together to develop a combined FA-League strong structure to lead the complete renaissance of the German youth football game.

Dr. Reinhard Rauball, the President of the League Association emphasized the mechanism that fostered critical interaction, working partnership and total synergy between the clubs and the DFB.

In essence, youth football is supported by the two interconnected entities allowing football clubs to invest in the youth and then remunerated accordingly when the product(players) progresses.

According to Dr Rauball, from 2002 to 2010, Germany invested approximately €520 million into its youth development system. The money went towards academies across the country, specifically to clubs in the top two leagues in Germany, the Bundesliga and the Bundesliga 2. Most academies have teams for players aged 12 to 23 and a defined system on how to develop elite players. Incorporating education is also a vital part of each academy.

The project has infused a lot of young players into the top-tier leagues leading to marked success in the value of the league and its players.

Back home, youth football is unregulated and in dismal conditions. Individuals, groups and clubs run their own academies and youth programs without proper vetting from the FA.

The proposed district and provincial academies by SAFA has not materialized, and their recent retrenchment plan of firing the 18 Technical Officers across the country compound the problem.

There are no clear funding mechanisms and distinction between academies and youth development centres. Professional clubs run their own academies without strict compliance protocols, employment of qualified youth technicians, structured youth curriculum and safe youth development premises.

Youth competitions

The year 2020, marked the 50th anniversary of the Brazilian youth tournament—-Copa São Paulo, a prestigious youth club event that sees the best young talent in Brazil face-off.

Teams from the São Paulo state and others across Brazil descend to participate, approximately 128 youth clubs grouped in over 31 groups square off in an exciting spectacle over the January month. Some of the exceptional talent like Vinicius Junior and Richardson are the products of the championship.

Copa São Paulo has greater significance and relevance to the youth football administrators and leadership of the game. It symbolizes planning, continuity and sustainable youth football strategy.

Instead of having a MultiChoice Diski Challenge (MDC) catering for professional clubs, why not introduce a national league for Under15s, Under-17s and Under-19s played across all provinces for boys and girls?

South African youth requires a spread out and an ALL-Inclusive league system capable of affording all players regardless of colour, creed or culture the opportunity to participate at all levels, as the current model promotes elitist mentality.

Qualified youth coaches

At the present juncture, youth coaching and training in our country is non-existent, non-coherent and unregulated. SAFA as the mother body has no Youth Coaching License.

Quality trained coaches benefit children, youth sports programs and communities in countless ways. If volunteer coaches are comfortable and confident in their abilities to work with children and coach the sport, they will feel like – and be – an extremely valuable part of the youth sports program.

The FA program on the education of its aspirants coaches has been slow and dwindling, with the challenges ranging from lack of funds, strategy and the will-power to deliver a proper program.

The following must be asked:

– How many SAFA Coaching Educators are in the database and how many are active?

– Is the Youth Football Coaching Curriculum in place and relevant to the South African player?

– Is there a National Playing Philosophy for all age groups (boys and girls)

– Is the SAFA Technical Director capable and trained (sporting and business) to deliver on all curriculum-related issues?

– Is the SAFA Technical Committee equipped to lead this process?

– What is the role and position of the higher institutions of learning in the broader research and training of youth coaches in our country.

The alienation of qualified and experienced instructors like Boebie Solomons, Conti Khubeka, Zipho Dlangalala, Simon Ngomane and Thabo Dladla by SAFA has led to a chronic coaching education pandemic.

Still, those who were at the forefront of a successful era of the dominant youth football product, coaches like Cavin Johnson, Floyd Mogale, Sudesh Singh, Sam Mbatha, Dlangalala, Dladla and Solomons, are not fully utilized and consulted in sharing lessons and methods proven to be successful for our youth players.

Youth coaching is not lucrative but most importantly fulfilling. If coaching is a calling, then youth coaching is a blessing.

Role of Government

Our government has not covered itself in glory either. Even though FIFA, as the international governing body advocates for the total autonomy in the running affairs of the game, government’s role remains vital.

Government provide facilities and infrastructure, funding and legislative oversight within its operational jurisdiction. It’s care and strategic support no matter how big, affords the game of football to prosper and leverage on its developmental mandate.

If the government is to honour the youth of 1976, it has to do the following:

– Improve the function of the provincial academies

– Funding of the youth football structures from youth, women, disabled and supporters

– Accelerate funding of youth football competitions

– Develop more youth football coaches

– Encourage the FA and PSL to leverage on our reputable higher institutions of learning

– Increase (mass participation) in schools across the country

– Protect football from other state organs like ICASA
– Encourage corporates to invest in youth football
– Ensure that only qualified foreign coaches (youth and senior) are allowed to work in our country provide they bring rare skills

Conclusion

Like Bantu education at its prime, our youth and their favourite game—football, continue to reflect blatant suffering, neglect, irresponsible and slow-transformation attitude to our young people across all races.

Unless we measure our youth football success with the goal scored by Siphiwe Tshabalala in the disastrous 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign on home soil, our eternal youth football intelligent forefathers and brain stimulators, like Professor Ted Dumitru, Reggie Shelembe and Jacob”Pro” Pilane will continue to tremble and suffer in utter insomnolence in heaven.

By FARPost Investigative Unit

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