Mikael Haskins grew up seeing his dad, Mark, turn out for PSL clubs, one of them being Bidvest Wits. Naturally, his desire would have been to play in the topflight and perhaps go on to play in Europe.
His hopes of making it in Europe were even buttressed by former Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows midfielder Peter ‘Big Six’ Rabolele, who is his Under 15 coach at Wits.
“Our Under 15 coach (Peter Rabolele) told us he was preparing us for Europe,” the teenager tells FARPost.
But the recent sale of The Students to Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) throws his dream and those of hundreds of youngsters, who are part of the club’s development structures, to the wind.
And the 15-year-old does not understand why the club he joined last year had to be sold.
“It wasn’t necessary because Bidvest Wits are doing well, and usually clubs sell teams when they’re not doing well. (On the other hand) TTM have a chance of coming into the PSL, so I did not see the reason for them buying Bidvest’s status,” says the budding number 10.
The teenage starlet raises an important question that even his dad cannot answer. What will become of famed Wits academy that produced an array of stars that have gone on to shine in the topflight?
“It’s quite a tough one, Bidvest Wits is one of the teams in the PSL that has promoted a lot of youngsters. They have a better track record (in terms of promoting youngsters) and that is why a few youngsters would have wanted to go through that system. There was evidence that they would actually get to the top,” Haskins senior tells FARPost.
Mamelodi Sundowns forward Sibusiso Vilakazi is by far the most glaring example, so is goalkeeper Darren Keet, who turns out for Belgian first division side OH Leuven, Sipho Mngomezulu, your Kulegani Madondo, Jackson Mabokgwane, Sibongakonke Mbatha, Sandile Sibande and Asive Langwe all came through the club’s structures. The list goes on and on.
You also have Neil Winstanley, Katlego Pule, Reyaad Pieterse, Phumlani Ntshangase and Letsie Koapeng. It is a long list of youngsters that rose through the ranks of the club and went on to shine elsewhere.
More recent examples are talents such as Rowan Human and Molahlehi Kunyedi who had just begun to feature for the first team.
And then you have the club’s MDC reserve team that also boasts a crop of promising players including Bryn Deeley, Deon Horn, Cameron Carnell, Kabelo Makola, Janovane September, Cuwen Prince and Keenan Phillips.
Haskins, who also had stints with Jomo Cosmos and SuperSport United during his 12-year PSL career, attributes the club’s good record to a good set up with great facilities.
“The loss will be felt by many. It’s a massive loss for all the players who were in the academy,” Haskins says.
Roan Maulgue, who only ever played for Wits through his 13-year career in the professional ranks stretching to 2013, says he “admired how the academy was always run.” Maulgue started 237 games and regularly captained them.
Stanton Fredericks also made his debut for the club in 1995 after coming through the club’s development structures and eventually came full circle to retire at the Clever Boys. He feels “the club didn’t only sell its PSL status but a rich history where generations of players were produced”.
Wits produced the 2013/14 Footballer of the Season in Vilakazi who came through the ranks at the Students and spent several years in the first team. The Sundowns attacker will forever hold the memories he created at the club.
But the youngsters at Wits remain at wits’ end with uncertainty around their respective futures.
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By Mthokozisi Dube