Amateur football should benefit from deals

It is 4.45pm at Meadowlands High School in Soweto. On the football field five different teams from around the area gather to prepare for their next league match.

Two teams are using the partly grassed and already dusty field.

On the sidelines there are about 20 players from Mighty Solutions FC, who play in the South African Football Association’s (Safa) South African Breweries (SAB) regional league.

Their coach, Sekonyela Molefe, gives them instructions to warm up and shouts at one of his players, Derick Maphulo, who doesn’t have shorts, to go get a pair from his house.

When the players finally get started on the field Molefe tells the Mail & Guardian about his experience with the SAB regional league and football development in the country.

The SAB regional league—formerly known as the Castle Regional League—has about 832 registered teams. Two regional winners from each of the nine provinces are promoted to the Vodacom Promotional League after a series of play-offs in their respective provinces.

These are the teams that hope to benefit from the new sponsorship deal between Safa, the brewery and Absa Bank.

Safa received R500-million last week from SAB and Absa, the largest sport sponsorship deal in South Africa. The aim is to build a strong Bafana Bafana team for the 2010 World Cup.

The association’s chief executive, Raymond Hack, told the M&G that 10% of the R500-million (R50-million) will go towards national development teams. “The monies will be used for SAB’s regional football leagues to develop young talent,” said Hack.

But clubs are sceptical, given their experiences in a league already sponsored by the beermaker.

“The SAB league is big, but the way it’s run is not good. We have problems that we encounter daily, but there is no platform for us to raise our concerns,” said Molefe.

Some of the problems they face include: lack of training and match venues, which result in matches being cancelled; bad refereeing; and a lack of monthly grants to run the teams.

Molefe said: “We use money from our own pockets for transport during matches, medical bills for the players, stadium bookings and to pay referees.

“SAB is just a name of the league. It was going to be better if we received grants from SAB and running a team would then be easy because most teams don’t have sponsors.”

The Safa deal has sparked angry responses from some development coaches around the country.

Former Bafana Bafana coach Ted Dumitru described the structure of the sponsorship deal as a “total shame” for South African football.

“The money which is going to be pumped up to the senior national team is way too much. That money should have at least been invested into developing young players because they come through the ranks to the national team,” said Dumitru.

“In South Africa we don’t even have a high-performance centre [HPC] for these young players.

“We need such facilities to develop these players, we don’t even have quality strikers and good playmakers and if that money goes into development we will have enough resources to develop our players,” he said.

The lack of quality strikers in the country has been evident on several occasions.

For example, in the 2006/07 Premier Soccer League season the top goal scorer was Zambian striker Christopher Katongo, who played for Jomo Cosmos, with only 15 goals. He left halfway through the season for Denmark, but no one passed his goal tally.

Molefe said: “We are not even sure if the money will get to the league. The monies should be used for new football fields. We can’t continue sharing fields the way we do.”

Augusto Palacios, Orlando Pirates development coach, agreed with Molefe. “If you go to places like Soweto you’ll find youngsters playing football on the streets or teams sharing one football field. Safa needs to establish new football fields.

“If you look at under-23, most players come from Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. This shouldn’t be always the case, we need an HPC, where the talent identified will be nurtured,” said Palacios.

But Molefe disagreed. “We don’t need an HPC, but football fields. The talent that these youngsters have is being overlooked. No one from Safa comes to have a look at these players when they select teams.”

The comments made by development coaches infuriated Hack. “This has nothing to do with development coaches.

“They will all talk about their specific needs. It is up to the national coach how we use the monies to develop young talent.”

National under-17 coach Serame Letsoaka thought the money would be best used “to develop young talent and to prepare a good team that will represent us during the 2010 World Cup; we don’t want to be knocked out in the early stages of the competition”.

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