The first of the Living Legends Seminar series, held on 15 June in the Wreck Aquarium at uShaka Marine on the Durban beachfront, was well attended by local luminaries from the sporting fraternity, and soccer in particular. Mr. Thembinkosi Ngcobo, Head of the Parks, Recreation and Culture Department of the eThekwini Municipality lauded various people who have made contributions in putting the City of Durban on the national and international map. Amongst those receiving a special mention were Neil Tovey and Clive Barker, captain and coach respectively of the 1996 Bafana Bafana squad who won the 1996 Africa Cup of Nations. Mr. Ngcobo called for a commitment to owning and celebrating homegrown talent and contributions and achievements of Durban people. He made an appeal for Durbanites to cherish, own and celebrate Durban soccer teams and Durban victories.
The topic for the evening’s panel discussion was “The role of youth academies in the development of internationally competitive footballers in South Africa”, Moderator Lindani Mbense of SABC Sport introduced the three panelists Clive Barker, Sugar Ray Xulu and Thabo Dladla.
Clive Barker decried the academies as a strategy for development. He was against sending off children to academies, which disregards the role that parents and families should be playing in the development of their children. Thabo Dladla of the Izichwe Programme, an initiative based in Pietermaritzburg which combines development in football and academic training, argued that parents have forgotten their moral responsibility to ensure that their children acquire skills which would hold them in good stead in future. Sugar Ray Xulu felt strongly that young people should be coached by experienced people. He highlighted that soccer is a mind game, that perfection is achieved through the drilling in of mental techniques and that discipline is very important. In principle he was not opposed to the concept of academies hoped the academies will involve skilled and experienced coaches. Clive Barker supported the involvement of former players in the development of football. Dladla echoed Clive Barker’s sentiments on parent involvement and argued that the migration of local youngsters to Gauteng to join academies there should be discouraged and local structures created. Barker emphasised the need to support local teams and create local programmes for upcoming soccer players, whilst Neil Tovey argued for structured school football to be brought back, highlighting the role that schools’ league and tournaments can play in advancing sport development.
From the floor soccer legend Bhiza Dlamini made the point that football today is not only a game but big business and argued that federations have killed football by not investing in development. . A point on the need for sustainability, good governance and transformation was raised from the audience. According to Dladla, development is about commitment, we can’t afford to sit back and blame the South African Football Association (SAFA) because SAFA starts at home. Clive Barker proposed development of the under 17 national league and under 17 teams to play curtain raiser matches for big games.
Views from the audience stated clearly the key role of the Education Department – that physical education must be done by professional sports people and that strong, well-managed associations are indispensible for development.
Written by Bheki Mchunu