Talent scout from Absa Premiership clubs, National First Division teams and Football Academies have been spending their time at the SAFA Under 17 Championship currently underway at the Nike Centre in Klipspruit near Pimville, Soweto. Since the start of the tournament on Tuesday, 7 December 2010, several talent scouts have been visiting the tournament.
The SAFA Under 17 Championship is used by most clubs to spot talent.
Head of Youth Scouting at Ajax Cape Town, John Rowley, has been in Johannesburg since Sunday, 5 December 2010 to prepare for the tournament. He has collected vital information for his club.
“I am here to see what talent is available, and I must say that I am impressed with what I have seen, but at the same time I was disappointed by the lack of understanding from most defenders in the tournament, especially the central defenders. The organisation of most squads on the field looks good but needs some improvement. We are attending a tournament in May 2011 where the youth teams of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Ajax Amsterdam, Manchester United and two teams from South America and North America will be playing, so we might find players here that we can take there. We at Ajax always look for the best talent and we always get the best,” said Rowley.
Steve Coetsee, from the University of Pretoria Football Club development has also been an interested spectator.
“We are always looking for players, and I have seen some good ones who also seem to be the right age which is a step in the right direction for such tournaments. Previously we used to have these tournaments where we would have four teams from each province which means we would have even more talent on display, so with just one squad sent to play it means some other talented youngsters miss out. Be that as it may, these tournaments are always a great place to spot talent,” said Coetsee.
Under 17 Women’s team goalkeeper coach, Alex Heredia is one of those who have been keeping a watchful eye on the players since the start of the tournament.
“Many people are saying the standard of the tournament has dropped, and I agree but there is a good reason – it is because the ages of the players are now correct compared to the previous years. What we saw years ago was a high standard game because there was too much cheating in terms of age. What we are seeing now makes our task as national team selectors easier and the future brighter for the country. This is good for development, and it shows now that people respect the tournament and the game in general, and this makes a huge difference” said Heredia.
Soccer analyst Farouk Khan is the Technical Director at Stars for Africa Academy in Johannesburg. He has sent several players overseas to further their careers. Khan has been making the journey to Soweto since the beginning of the tournament with the hope of getting some youngsters into his academy.
“This is a well-organised tournament, with games starting on time and played in very good spirit. I love the artificial pitch as well as it gives the players the opportunity to express themselves. What has impressed me the most is the raw talent on display, but it would have been great to catch them three or four years earlier and they would have been better players by now. You can also see that their ages look correct, and that is a serious factor as they can compete on an equal football which means we will see good football. Decision-making is still a problem – but not only at this level but also in the PSL – so we need to deal with it at this age, or even earlier. What I have also noticed is that the coaching has also improved, but it can get better. These kids here are showing a lot of promise which is excellent for the future. So these tournaments are not important but very crucial, and this is a great step forward for development,” said Khan.
Eight matches were played on Day 3.
In Group A, SASFA is the only team that has qualified for the semi-finals with 10 points from four matches – three wins and a draw. They drew one all (1-1) against Western Cape in the morning and then defeated Free State two one (2-1). Western Cape are second with five points from three matches, with one match left. Western Cape needs just a draw in their Cape derby against the fourth-placed Northern Cape on Friday, 11 December at the Eldorado Park Stadium. Third is Free State who earlier in the day played to a two-all (2-2) draw against the Eastern Cape. Hosts Gauteng have bombed out of tournament with just one point from three matches.
In Group B Northern Cape and Kwazulu Natal have progressed to the semi-finals even before the last matches have been played. Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West missed out on the last four. The effects of playing two matches in one day seemed to weigh heavily against Mpumalanga. They defeated Limpopo one nil (1-0) in the morning but then lost by four goals to one (4-1) to KZN in a rain-interrupted match in the afternoon. Limpopo lost their second match of the day when they went down one nil (1-0) Northern Cape, who had earlier beaten North West three nil (3-0).
Northern Cape top Group B with nine points from four matches, followed by KZN who are two points adrift with one match to play. Limpopo and Mpumalanga, on three points each, still have a chance of un-seating KZN, but with a lot of goals. North West is last with just one point.