Behind the Scenes
Posted by one of our writers, Anthony McLennan
As the thrill of the coming World Cup grows by the day, let’s not forget the importance of building a lasting legacy.
I was recently in contact with the owner of a first division (one tier below the Premier Soccer League) club here in Cape Town.
Clearly passionate about uplifting the local community and providing kids with a chance to escape the daily grind of poverty, drugs and gangs, he finds himself being forced to sell the club’s first team franchise in order to be able to continue running the club’s youth academy.
Compared to the R1 million a month PSL clubs receive from the League, (most of whom also have sponsors), National First Division (NFD) teams are given a pittance and nearly all of them are struggling to stay afloat as club owners are forced to dig deeper and deeper into their own pockets.
I find this to be a rather sad state of affairs less than three months away from hosting the World Cup.
We have been promised that World Cup proceeds will be poured back into development of the game at grass roots level. I hope not only that this promise is kept, but more importantly, that the funds are spent wisely.
This will make all the difference. Look for example how a World Cup training venue – Athlone Stadium – had its pitch declared unplayable.
It now has to be re-laid and hundreds of thousands of rands, if not millions, have literally been poured down the drain. This kind of mismanagement cannot be allowed as far as the development funds go.
We’ve seen how academies like the Transnet School of Excellence have gone to ruin. And how fly-by-night youth academies have popped up all over the country. I’m not saying youth development at a young age, from six or seven years old, is not key, because it is.
But my appeal to the powers that be, to those who will control the World Cup millions, is to also take into consideration the development and support of our existing semi-professional and amateur ranks, such as the NFD, Second Division and Third Division.
Many of the NFD clubs have their own academies. Youngsters from these teams have the opportunity to graduate to the first team gain invaluable experience in a highly competitive league. These academies or youth structures already exist, but desperately need financial assistance.
Yes, sure, go ahead, build the fancy academies with big shiny gyms, multiple pitches, swimming pools and conference centres, but don’t forget the guys who have been toiling away without much reward - the clubs that schooled the likes of Teko Modise, Abia Nale, Terror Fanteni and Erwin Isaacs – you would be surprised at the number of current PSL players who spent their formative years at a lower league club rather than a professional academy.
For a fraction of the cost of a new sparkling development centre, these clubs could be handed a life-line to continue and improve upon the work they have been doing for many years.
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