BIDVEST Wits’ under-19 football team jets off to Denmark this Sunday to test their mettle in two international tournaments.
The academy team was invited by Danish giants Brondby IF to take part in the two-day competition, as well as the Lyngby Cup.
The team achieved second place in 2011, and then went on to clinch the cup in 2012 with some breathtaking performances that saw them score a total 34 goals on their way to victory.
The team’s performances are all the more impressive considering South Africa has no national under-19 league and, perhaps as a consequence, the national under-20 team is largely inactive and spends very little time playing competitive games.
Despite hugely publicised promises by the South African Football Association (Safa) to reinvest 2010 World Cup profits into grassroots football and development structures, administrative bungles and infighting have prevented the good intentions turning into action.
On Monday, The Times newspaper reported Safa stands to lose its R120-million a year sponsorship deal with Puma due to maladministration and allegations of some Bafana Bafana games being fixed.
An attempt to find the national under-20 team’s 2013 fixtures illustrates the point: Safa’s official website only had 2012 fixtures. The football manager at Safa referred Wits Vuvuzela to technical director Fran Hilton-Smith when asked about fixtures.
Hilton-Smith, in turn, said the manager should have these details.
At the time of going to press, no one from Safa had been able to provide Wits Vuvuzela with updated fixture details.
Ashley Makhanya, head coach since 2009, said the team relied on playing in the Safa Gauteng Development League against other academy teams in the province.
He said it was “important to expose our players to international football at an early age” to improve the level of local football.
“There’s a need for coaching at youth level. As a country we need to put more effort and more resources to expose the talent. A lot of young players are not being seen…If youth structures can improve we will be better off as a country.”
The Bidvest Wits academy appears to be playing its part in youth development. In June, former under-19 player Lebogang Phiri signed a four-year deal to play for Brondby’s first team after impressing at the youth tournament last year.
The player is just one of many young talents nurtured by Bidvest who have gone on to become professionals. Stanton Fredericks, Josta Dladla, Sibusiso Vilakazi, Sifiso Myeni are just a few of the academy’s luminaries.