FC Utrecht’s young right back Sylian Mokono has become the latest South African youngster to make his senior debut in Europe.
This comes after the 21-year-old right back made his first senior appearance for the Dutch Eredivisie side against Feyenoord last weekend.
Mokono has been with the Dutch outfit for the past 5 years since joining them from USV Elinkwijk, a small local club where he started his development before attracting interest from Utrecht.
He came on as a 79th minute substitute for Utrecht replacing Mark Van Der Maarel as both teams shared the spoils on the day in a 1-1 draw.
Mokono was born in Utrecht to South African parents and he has made over 40 appearances for Jong Utrecht who compete in the country’s second division. The advantage about the Dutch second division is that junior players start playing senior football at a very young age as most of the teams that compete at that level are fighting for promotion to the Eredivisie. In recent years big clubs like FC Twente and Sparta Rotterdam have competed in the division before earning promotion back to the top-flight.
Mokono has basically been playing senior football for the past 3 years since being part of the reserve team. This process is important as it makes the transition to the senior team not as difficult as it usually would be for most players who come from reserve league or academy development set-ups. Most countries across Europe have adopted this approach to their youth development, for example in the Netherlands clubs like Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven all have their reserve teams playing senior football in the second division.
In Portugal Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Sporting Club Braga and FC Porto also have a similar set-up with their reserve teams playing second tier and third tier senior football and competing with clubs which are vying for promotion to the higher leagues in the country. At the age of 31 first choice right back Mark Van Der Maarel is not getting any younger and Mokono will be fighting to feature in as many games as possible as the season continues. With age on his side, he has a chance of becoming the club’s first choice right back for the coming years. Utrecht is known for developing some of the best players in the world with clubs in the top 5 leagues consistently buying their products over the years.
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By Prince Sobayeni